Sending out a message to Highways England (red No Option C poster on the right)

Just in case Highways England aren’t getting the message!

As cynical as we are about the Highways England CONsultations for the Lower Thames Crossing, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to go along to our nearest one which was held at Linford Methodist church on Wednesday 14.11. We got there at 3.30pm and the first sight we saw was a security guard outside the church. Okay…looks as though they might have been expecting some heated discussion that would possibly need ‘managing’. As we got to the door, we were informed by Highways England staff that we would have to wait as the hall was full to capacity. We didn’t mind waiting at all. A full house at 3.30pm is a good sign that locals are not taking this lying down and are serious about putting Highways England under pressure.

As ever with these consultations, there were loads of glossy publications extolling the ‘virtues’ of the scheme, technical publications explaining the traffic ‘forecasts’ used to justify the crossing, more detailed plans and maps than you could shake a stick at and the inevitable large scale, slick looking display boards. What we couldn’t fail to notice was the emphasis that was being placed on environmental amelioration works in a bid to fend off some of the reasons for objecting to the proposals. Finally, there were loads of Highways England consultants around as well, eager to engage us in conversation while trying to steer us away from asking difficult questions.

When we said we knew that the proposals were pretty much a done deal, the consultant we were talking to did her level best to try and convince us that Highways England were listening to the concerns of the locals. Listening only as far as making further tweaks to the plans was concerned – forget about questioning the actual need for the crossing. It would seem that Highways England are operating on a different planet to the one the rest of us mere mortals live on where we have twelve years maximum to drastically cut CO2 emissions before we’re overwhelmed by a series of environmental catastrophes. Against that background, the bullshit about projected economic growth that was being deployed to justify the crossing seemed shallow and facile.

Then there’s the small matter of a crap Brexit deal or even a no deal putting a damper on economic growth for at least a decade and quite possibly a lot longer. Also, there’s a proposal on the table for a cross river tram link connecting Thurrock with Dartford and Gravesham: KenEx Thames Transit tram from Bluewater to Lakeside takes step forward. The Highways England consultants were only vaguely aware of this proposed tram link and certainly didn’t seem that interested in upsetting their calculations by taking into account it’s potential contribution to reducing cross river road traffic.

To conclude, as we expected, the Highways England CONsultation was an exercise in bullshit undertaken by people who didn’t seem to want to acknowledge that the facts of the situation have changed and are continuing to change. The positives were the number of people at the event putting Highways England under a lot of pressure. Not to mention the numerous anti-crossing posters we saw walking up from East Tilbury station. As we’ve mentioned more times than we care to remember, there’s still a way to go before there’s any physical manifestation of the Lower Thames Crossing. That gives people time to organise around a more radical strategy and tactics. The dice may appear to be loaded against us but as far as we’re concerned, there’s still everything to play for…

The consultation is available at: Paper copies of all the consultation documents are also available at Grays Library and Tilbury Hub during normal opening hours.