O'Sullivan questions PINS capacity after tunnel rebuff

Chris Ames

Highways England’s chief executive has defended its proposals and planning application for the Lower Thames Crossing and questioned the capacity of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to process the application.

The government-owned company recently withdrew its planning application for the planned £6bn tunnel and link roads between Kent and Essex, based on what Jim O’Sullivan described as ‘early feedback' from PINS.

Speaking at a conference on the strategic road network, Mr O’Sullivan described the crossing as the biggest single road project since the M25 was built, adding: ‘It will improve access to the Channel ports, relieving the M25 and the Dartford Crossing and it will almost double capacity across the Thames Estuary.

‘The current Dartford Crossing was built for about 80,000 vehicles a day and on a busy day you see about a hundred and ten to about a hundred and fifteen thousand vehicles. It is way over capacity.’

Mr O’Sullivan said: ‘The other important thing about this project: it is not for the South East of England. For sure, it connects Kent to Essex – but that’s where the river is. This project is vitally important to the Midlands, the North of England, Scotland and North Wales, in terms of improving both journey times, but more important, journey resilience to the Channel ports.

‘If something goes wrong with the Dartford Crossing, it can add four, six, eight, 10 hours to the journey time to these important parts of the UK. Once this tunnel is built, the maximum delay that anyone will face for the journey across the Thames to get to Dover will probably be about 30-40 minutes. That certainty is hugely important if you are trying to invest in other parts of the country.'

Despite his ‘levelling up’ agenda, in the foreword to the recent National Infrastructure Strategy Boris Johnson noted that ‘on our major A roads and motorways, two-thirds of our upgrades are outside south-eastern England’, meaning that a third of such works will be in that corner of the country. The cost of the crossing represents a large slice of the capital spending in the 2020-25 Road Investment Strategy.

Regarding the decision to withdraw the Development Consent Order (DCO) application, Mr O'Sullivan said: ‘This is the biggest, most complex case, DCO, that the Planning Inspectorate will have to look at. Some people say that the third runway at Heathrow was more complex. I would argue that it wasn’t – that this is the most complex and therefore we are going to take a couple of extra months to add a bit more detail and resubmit that DCO.

‘The fundamentals of the Lower Thames Crossing, including its objectives and location all remain the same, so we will further develop some technical information and resubmit next year. This includes greater detail on how we are going to manage the construction traffic, how we will mitigate the impact on the environment, and how we will make sure that river traffic is not adversely affected during the construction.

‘They [PINS] have a statutory six months. This submission is 48,000 pages. I think the question has to be asked: how do we support PINS so that they can be successful? Obviously I’d like them to give permission for the project, more deeply I’d like them to make the right decision so how do we create the capability and the environment for PINS to examine 48,000 pages of data and to make the right decision? So I think that’s an important question.’

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Also Inside:

  • Traffex Parkex review
  • Round table: Mastering modern contracting
View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Road Worker

Band 6 £20,043 - £22,129 pa
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is looking for two Road Workers to join the Highway Delivery Unit. Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Assistant Engineer / Engineer

£24,920 - £34,373 pa
This is an opportunity to join the highway maintenance team Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Technician - Maintenance Programmes (3 Posts)

£23,657 - £25,568 per annum - Plus market leading package (see below)
This is an exciting time to join our in-house Highways Service Hybrid
Recruiter: Derbyshire County Council

Assistant Highways Officer

£21,269 - £23,953
Lincolnshire County Council is looking to recruit an Assistant Highways Officer Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Highways Officer

£26,466 - £29,174
Lincolnshire County Council is looking to appoint a Highways Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Carbon Reduction Manager

£42,614 - £45,648 (pro-rata)
Are you driven to tackle climate change though decarbonisation? Newport (Casnewydd)
Recruiter: Newport City Council

Senior Engineer

We are looking to recruit a Senior Engineer within the Structures team. Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recruiter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Transportation Planner

£35,336 - £39,571
A Transportation Planner is required for the analysis and monitoring of traffic, to design and undertake feasibility studies. Pembroke, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)
Recruiter: Pembrokeshire County Council

Highways Service Manager (Commissioning & Contract Management)

£52,848 - £64,998
We are now looking to recruit a number of talented, motivated and innovative individuals. Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Highways Network Manager

£52,848 - £64,998
We are forming a new highways and transport team for West Northamptonshire Council Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Assistant Engineer

£27,514 to £29,174 per annum
A great opportunity has arisen for an enthusiastic and self-motivated individual to join our team Preston, Lancashire
Recruiter: Preston City Council

Highways Transport Strategy and Development Manager

£52,848 - £64,998
This is a unique opportunity to join a newly formed unitary authority which is mobilising a new highways contract. Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Principal Officer (Network Coordination)

£39,571 - £42,614
We are looking for experienced and well-motivated staff to help shape the future delivery of the service. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recruiter: Oxfordshire County Council

Senior Highways Officer

£36,371 per annum plus £2,000 Market Forces
Hertfordshire truly is the County of Opportunity Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Highways Development Manager

£44,624 per annum plus £3,000 Market Forces
We are actively recruiting for Highways Development Managers within the Environment & Transport Department Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Roadworker Ganger (Civils)

£21,989 to £24,447
City of York Council are looking for a number of Roadworker Gangers to join its Highways Capital Projects Team. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Highways Inspector.

£25,419 - £28,226
You will be responsible for the planning and carrying out statutory highway inspection. Northumberland
Recruiter: Northumberland County Council

Highways Operative - Barrow x4

£22,571 – £23,484
We are looking to recruit a new Highways Operative to our Highways Service. Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Highway Asset Principal (Performance & Information)

We're eager to find a compelling and persuasive individual to take advantage of this brand-new opportunity within our Highways Asset Team. Lancashire
Recruiter: Lancashire County Council

Inspector / Senior Inspector

£22,129 - £32,798 pa
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is seeking to recruit an Inspector/Senior Inspector to join the friendly Highway Maintenance Team Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Highways Presents


Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video