The importance of a new Lower Thames Crossing to the region’s economy has galvanised organisations from across Kent and Essex to call on George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to reaffirm the government’s support and not delay it any longer.
Major businesses on either side of the Thames have come together to argue that the Lower Thames Crossing is one of the most important infrastructure projects in the South East, and is of national significance.
One of the signatories was the business-focused organisation, South East Local Enterprise Partnership, which champions the economic wellbeing of Kent, East Sussex, Essex, Medway, Southend and Thurrock, through its partnership of public and private sector organisations.
George Kieffer, Interim Chairman of SE LEP, said: “It’s a truly transformational project for the economy of the Thames Estuary, and beyond. When the existing Dartford River Crossing is closed or heavily congested there’s a knock-on effect that can impact on businesses across the country, including those in the much vaunted Northern Powerhouse.
“At the moment, the possible location of a new crossing point are two vague outlines on a map. There’s no commitment to funding or delivery, which we need to see to progress our plans for further long-term investment in the area.”
There’s been a call on the Government to set a firm timetable and financial package for its delivery to support the growth of new jobs, skills, apprenticeships, and increased productivity, as part of the forthcoming Autumn Statement and the Comprehensive Spending Review.
The signatories believe that doing nothing, or delaying it, is not an option as the Dartford Crossing is a crucial transport artery and already over capacity. Increasing the resilience of river crossings in the area would make trade easier, quicker, more reliable and cheaper for UK plc.
Jo James, SE LEP board member and Chief Executive of Kent Invicta Chamber, said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is much more than just a new bridge or tunnel to relieve congestion. It represents a once in a generation opportunity to reinvigorate local development, create new jobs and stimulate investment by supporting nationally important industries.
“It would improve our connectivity to Europe and competitiveness, and at the same time regenerate an overlooked part of southern England.”
Tim Waggott, chief executive at the Port of Dover, is among those who signed the letter. He said: “Imports and exports through ports like Dover aren’t just a lifeline for trade and industry in the South – they’re crucial to the powerhouses of the Midlands and the North. That’s why UK PLC desperately needs a new crossing to keep us all connected.
“With the Dartford Crossing operating above its design capacity, this new infrastructure is required for our transport networks and key freight corridors to remain free flowing and, above all, resilient.
“The country has outgrown its old infrastructure - we need to start building for the future. It’s only by getting projects like this going that we’ll ensure the economic recovery keeps Britain moving.”
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership was joined in signing the letter by DP World London Gateway, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Essex Chambers of Commerce, Claridon, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, London Southend Airport, Port of Dover, Port of Tilbury London, Freight Transport Association, Eurotunnel, and the Road Haulage Association.
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