Dartford tunnel toll booths

Plans to build an HGV parking area along the route of the Lower Thames Crossing have been dropped, in a move that has drawn criticism from the RHA and FTA.

A further consultation into the construction of Britain’s longest road tunnel connecting Kent, Essex and Thurrock has launched, but key changes to the design of the road include removing a rest and service area and maintenance depot, as well as a junction at Tilbury.

Highways England said the changes reflect the 29,000 consultation responses received last summer, but in a report published last year it showed 67% of respondents either supported or strongly supported the rest area, compared with 13% that either opposed or strongly opposed it.

Chrys Rampley, RHA infrastructure manager said Thurrock council and its residents have continually objected to HGV parking areas: “I’m bitterly disappointed that the plans have been dismissed,” she said.

“I don’t personally think any environmental issues are strong enough; it was being built on contaminated land.

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“The junction’s also been taken away, so there’ll be no quick access to the port either.”

Rampley added that the RHA would now be looking to identify alternative sites for parking, but she added: “It’s going to be difficult. It should have been included as part and parcel of the overall plan.

“Thurrock is making a rod for its back. They’ve been closing additional laybys in the area and pushing lorries elsewhere rather than accommodating them.”

Added Heidi Skinner, policy manager for the South East at the FTA: “There is already a severe lack of facilities for commercial vehicle drivers in the South East of England; the Department for Transport identified 37% more parking spaces are needed just to meet minimum requirements. Despite making a valuable contribution to the UK economy, these drivers are often denied access to very basic amenities; we are very disappointed to see plans for a ‘rest and service area’ have been removed from the proposals.

“FTA and its members have been very supportive of the Lower Thames Crossing; it promises to help ease traffic and improve road capacity in a heavily congestion area. But failure to provide welfare facilities for drivers would be a disservice to these hard-working individuals; no other workforce would be expected to operate under such poor conditions.

"In an industry where you are compelled by law to take regular breaks and rest, it is vital drivers have access to these most basic amenities; FTA will continue to work with Highways England to ensure facilities are placed close to the scheme.”

Responding, Chris Taylor, director of Highways England’s complex infrastructure programme, said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is Highways England’s most ambitious project in 30 years, designed to improve journeys across the South East and open up new connections and opportunities for people and businesses.

“Getting the views of the local community and businesses is crucial to designing a project that will offer the best value, maximise the benefits for all, while reducing the impact on local communities and the environment.”

The consultation ends on 25 March.