Leading independent logistics operator, Europa Worldwide Group’s campaign to tackle the traffic jams at the Dartford Tunnel has seen thousands of people from across the UK sign its petition, with signatures almost at the 2,000 mark.
The campaign has also sparked debate within the industry – with industry bodies and fellow operators voicing concerns about Europa MD, Andrew Baxter’s proposal to reroute oversized and hazardous goods vehicles the other way around the M25, in a bid to ease the ever-worsening congestion at the Dartford Tunnel.
The Dartford Crossing (which is close to Europa’s £30m 1hub headquarters) is a notoriously busy route that is brought to a standstill on a daily basis, because every time an oversized or hazardous goods vehicle enters the tunnel it needs to be escorted in a convoy – which means all other traffic has to stop.
Andrew says he’s pleased to have drawn attention to the issue and despite mixed response from the haulage sector maintains that redirecting the convoys could yield the quickest result, but welcomes alternative suggestions.
Andrew said: “If nothing else we set out to spark a debate about this and raise awareness of the issue – which we’ve achieved – and we’ve seen that the congestion at the Tunnel is a hot topic for many people. We’re a transport company and we do operate hazardous goods vehicles ourselves – we have no interest in harming our industry. Ultimately though it boils down to what is better for the 99 per cent of motorists using the Tunnel and the huge inconvenience they suffer because of the other 1 per cent. Waiting another eight years for the Government’s solution doesn’t benefit the majority of road users in the meantime.”
Banning oversized and hazardous goods vehicles from using the tunnel could potentially remove up to 2.5 hours of traffic jams at the Dartford Tunnel each day.
“We’ve received a steady stream of support – and a lot of signatures – to date for the campaign but we do understand some of the frustrations being raised by transport businesses about the potential cost implications of time and fuel, particularly those who’s destination is just north of the crossing. But I want to make it clear – we are not hell-bent on our idea – we are just happy to have started the discussion and are completely open to other constructive suggestions about how the convoy process can be managed more efficiently. In fact, we’ve had some really interesting suggestions in the first week – limiting the convoys to crossing at night, for example.”
On average, 100 convoys go through the crossing a day – and traffic has to stop to accommodate them. This means that one of the tunnels is closed every 15 minutes on average. Highways England has stated that traffic stops for between 1.5 and 2.5 minutes every time there is a convoy.
People from Cornwall to Scarborough and the Isle of Wight to Dumfriesshire have supported the cause by signing the online petition. In light of the mixed response from the haulage sector, Europa is inviting businesses to get in touch with their feedback.
“The end goal remains the same – to ease the daily nightmarish congestion at the Dartford Tunnel in the immediate future. How that is achieved is open to the floor and we want to encourage that debate and discussion, because it’s the only way that we can exact change. I still believe that the environmental and economic damage of creating traffic jams on the M25 are much worse than rerouting a small number of vehicles. That being said we’re inviting businesses to come to us with their thoughts in the hope that we can galvanise those who have a vested interest in this issue – and that between us we can find a solution.”
Andrew had also considered the potential for easing traffic jams at the Tunnel by launching an official investigation into the height restriction on the left-hand tunnel, because currently, vehicles in excess of 4.8m cannot use the left tunnel.
Andrew said: “I believe there should be a full investigation into increasing the height restriction in the left tunnel by 5cm. This would mean both tunnels could be used by standard double decked trailers which are 4.85m tall. Highways England should do a full investigation into this issue.
“Traffic at the tunnel is damaging to business and I hope our campaign sheds light on an alternative, potentially immediate solution to some of the problems at the crossing.”
Source: Uk Haulier