The RAC Foundation supports the principle of a new Lower Thames crossing and in its consultation response agrees that, on balance, the scheme preferred by Highways England is the best option but with these qualifications:
- The design of (the easterly) section south of the river must be formulated to minimise impacts on the Kent AONB, the Shorne Conservation Area and local woodlands and if development of adequate mitigation proves impracticable and the western route is chosen then the junction with the A2 needs to be redesigned;
- The scope for improving the A229 link between the M2 and M20, which will be used by some of the traffic from the new crossing, should be re-examined;
- A new crossing will be a massive undertaking, and should have at least a 30 if not a 50-year design horizon. We believe there is a powerful case for a dual three lane crossing. Moving to dual three might create further cost advantages for an immersed tube crossing if a satisfactory way could be found through the current extent of RAMSAR designation, as has been found elsewhere.
- In light of the prospectively disproportionate use of tolling in the east Thames corridor and the establishment of a national Road Fund the Government needs to revisit the policy statement on tolling that it has inherited taking account of the wider implications for this scheme, in particular the traffic implications for the western sections of the M25, and other potentially similar projects such as the Stonehenge Tunnel and a possible new trans-Pennine route.