MPs warn on lack of river crossings

17 Mar 15

A failure to plan river crossings across the UK have left many parts of the country with poor connectivity that has undermined economic growth, a committee of MPs have concluded.

The transport select committee said that many estuary areas had suffered from inadequate transport capacity due to crossings being constructed that were unable to deal with future traffic growth.

Its Strategic river crossings report concluded that a lack of cross-river capacity limited local and national economic growth, so there was a need for a national long-term approach to planning new bridges and tunnels.

Chair Louise Ellman highlighted that the committee heard evidence that current cost-benefit analysis methods used in project design consistently underestimate the usage of new crossings. She called on the government to rectify that weakness as soon as possible, as well as undertaking research on the link between enhanced cross-river connectivity and urban regeneration.

‘Important infrastructure projects, such as the Mersey Gateway Bridge, have the potential to generate economic growth by linking workers to jobs and consumers to retailers. We have recommended ways for the government and transport planners to maximise those benefits to local communities,’ she added.

MPs also said that plans being developed for new river crossings in east London were ‘long overdue’ and were needed to allow the city to deal with the forecast increase in population to 10 million people by 2031. Ministers must work the Mayor of London to develop plans for crossings either at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock river crossing or connecting the M2 in Kent with the A13 and the M25 in Essex, Ellman said.
‘Time and time again a clear need for new river crossings has been identified in east London, but a lack of political leadership has seen plans shelved repeatedly.

‘Without new crossings congestion will continue to get worse and the area will never realise its full potential. To solve that problem, the government and GLA must work together as a matter of priority to establish a special purpose company with the sole objective to deliver a package of crossings east of Tower Bridge.’

Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for the DfT said the government was committed to a new lower Thames crossing, which would be a crucial part of this country’s road network.
‘We have worked closely with local communities on this issue and the strength of feeling is clear, with over 5,700 responses to our last consultation.

‘It is vital that we make the right choice for the location, which is why we are carrying out a detailed assessment of two options. This work will not delay the delivery of the crossing and the new crossing is still on course to open by 2025.’

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