A few weeks ago, we put up a couple of posts about Highways England thinking that the Lower Thames Crossing was pretty much a done deal: Highways England jumping the gun and: A small victory and a possible glimmer of light? The key points we made were that the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdowns and tiered restrictions have had a massive impact on how people work and shop. The changes to working patterns and shopping habits, mean that the traffic forecasts Highways England have been using to justify the construction of this environmentally damaging crossing are massively out of date. We stated that as far as we and other opponents of the scheme are concerned, the fight to stop the crossing is far from over.
There are now issues over the rising costs of the project: Massively rising cost of Lower Thames Crossing is questioned and Highways England’s justifications described as ‘misleading’. The cost of the 14 mile route is reported to have risen from the initial estimate of £5.3 billion to £8.2bn. That makes it more more expensive per mile than the controversial HS2 rail line. In the government Spending Review announced recently, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, did include the Lower Thames Crossing in his calculations. Highways England are clutching onto this as a justification for pushing ahead.
The economy isn’t going to go back to the way it was just a year ago, too much has already changed for that to be even possible. With the Planning Inspectorate giving the project a bit of a knockback and now the issue of rising costs against the background of the economy having been turned upside down over the last ten months, the sensible thing to do would be to pause everything and have a major reassessment. The problem is, we’re dealing with Highways England who have a reputation for arrogance and a government that doesn’t seem to have grasped how the massive changes to working and shopping patterns over the last ten months have rendered all previous assumptions redundant. Pausing for a reassessment would mean having to admit that they were wrong and there are too many egos involved for that to happen.
To conclude, even at this late stage, it’s possible to stop this project. Ignore the bullshit coming from Highways England and some sectors of the government which is nothing more than propaganda designed to convince us that we might as well give up now. There’s everything still to play for by any means necessary…