FIGURES released by the Highways Agency have given added impetus to opponents to plans for a new Thames crossing in Thurrock.
The figures on the agency’s website show a steady decline in numbers every year but one since 2005, and are at their lowest level since the mid 1990s.
Despite that, the Government is pressing ahead with consultation on three new lower Thames crossings, all running through Thurrock.
The new figures prompted Borough Council Leader Cllr John Kent to say: “I have been saying for ages that the number of vehicles using the crossing is falling and now the Highways Agency is agreeing with me.
“Anyone who lives here knows our experience is that congestion is increasing as traffic is falling and that, to me, means the solution needs to be thought about very carefully.
“Late next year we were promised an end to the toll booths and the introduction of free-flow tolls and I want to see how that affects congestion.
“People say the numbers are falling because of the state of the economy, but this goes back eight years to a time when the economy was booming.
“If we break down those figures, it shows there were 541⁄2 million vehicles using the crossing in 2005 and 49.1 million this year with the daily average falling from 149,262 to 134,732 or 14,500 fewer vehicles a day making the trip.
“If that’s the case why is congestion worse? Apart from the number of accidents, it has to be down to the price rises and the number of coins drivers have to ferret around and find. Free-flow tolls or better still, no tolls at all, I think would sort out the whole problem and at a fraction of the cost ofanewbridgeoranew tunnel.
“I know we’re also asking for the M25-A13 junctions to be sorted out too, but my fear on that concerns the extra traffic that Thurrock’s quickly growing economy will be generating.
“I say sort out the tolls and look closely at the junctions to see what can be done – don’t go for an ego-boosting massively expensive and unnecessary new crossing … a crossing we won’t even see for ten years or more!”