Highways England jumping the gun

The planning application for the Lower Thames Crossing was submitted by Highways England on Friday 23 October. There’s a 28 day period from that date for the Planning Inspectorate to review the application and decide whether to allow it to proceed to examination. A final decision on the crossing is expected from the Secretary of State in 2022 with construction expected to start later that year if the go ahead is given. Given these facts, you could reasonably conclude that if you’re opposed to this environmentally destructive scheme, there’s still everything to play for.

That hasn’t stopped Highways England from jumping the gun and putting the job of constructing the crossing out to tender. This is how it was covered by Thurrock Nub News: Contract to build new Thames tunnels and roads near Tilbury is put to tender. This is being done in the face of considerable local opposition. Mind you, with our experience of dealing with Highways England, we’re on pretty safe ground saying they’re an outfit with a bit of a god complex who don’t give a shit about what any opponents of their schemes think!

The impact of the COVID19 crisis and the subsequent lockdowns and tiered ‘new normals’ has had a devastating effect on an economy that was already shaky. With much talk from the likes of the World Economic Forum about how the economy is going to be ‘reset’ and how they and their ilk are engineering the crisis to bring this about, any traffic growth forecasts made beforehand might as well be chucked in the bin. If we’re honest, none of us can predict with any accuracy what the world will be like a few years down the line. Patterns of work and consumption have changed quite drastically as a result of the lockdowns. All we can say is that we won’t be going back to the way things were – that includes the assumptions about growth that underpinned what used to be seen as normal.

None of this seems to matter to Highways England who just want to plough on regardless, clinging to outdated forecasts and assumptions with no regard to the new reality we’ll have to deal with. It’s like they’ve dug themselves in so deep with this project they feel they’ve reached the point where it’s impossible to stop, reassess the project based on new forecasts and admit that it’s not needed without a massive loss of face. The point is that even at this stage in the proceedings, there’s still everything to play for. This costly white elephant could still be stopped.

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