Consultants urge better future proofing of major river crossings

February 11 2015  

Consultants urge better future proofing of major river crossings

Strategic river crossings should be designed to accommodate traffic demands a full 30 years after opening, a Committee of MPs heard this week.

Mike Llewelyn-Jones of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering’s roads sector interest group told a Transport Select Committee hearing on Monday: “When we design capacity for a new capital road scheme it is designed such that it will flow in an acceptable way in the peak periods 15 years after the road is open.

“But when it is a strategic crossing I think there would be a case for a policy change so that you don’t design for 15 years, but you design for 30 years. The cost of being wrong is sometimes very large.”

Fellow ACE representative Tim Healy added: “If you look at major river crossings such as at the Mersey, Severn, Forth and Dartford all of them have been duplicated. So when they were first constructed there wasn’t that future proofing; there wasn’t a means of catering for capacity some 20 years or so in the future.

“It’s happening acutely at Dartford again where we started out with a single tunnel, 20 years later we got a second tunnel, 20 years later a bridge and now four lanes in each direction are at capacity. There is a need, generally accepted, for a further crossing in the Lower Thames.”

Both men were addressing the third and final session in the Committee’s inquiry into strategic river crossings. Later in the session the Committee chair Louise Ellman MP asked Transport Minister John Hayes why it is taking so long for Government to make a decision on the location for a new Lower Thames Crossing.

She pointed out that it has taken five years for three options to be reduced to two and that the Government has said a final decision on its location will not be made until December. “You under estimate how long it has taken,” the Minister quipped. “Matters were first considered in a document in 1994 and again in another study in 2009.

“This does go back a long way, but it is important to get this right,” the Minister added. “We have narrowed the options and have engaged in extensive consultations. Being diligent now will probably save time in the future and it is essential to build a consensus.”

Mr Hayes was asked by Committee member Jim Fitzpatrick MP how you overcome local objections to such crossings in the regional or national interest. “At the heart of it is a combination of absolute clarity of purpose and strength of will,” Mr Hayes replied. “When they are coupled with local liaison and a certain degree of charm you can probably get the job done.”

♦ London's Mayor unveiled plans this week to create tunnels and 'fly-unders' at five locations to reduce both congestion and community severance. Transport for London will take forward feasibility studies into a tunnel for the A13 at Barking Riverside, creation of a deck over the A3 at Tolworth to provide space for new homes, fly-unders of the A4 in Hammersmith and on the A316 at Chalkers Corner and decking or a mini tunnel at the A406 in New Southgate. 

(Image: Arup/HOK)

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