To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will give estimates for the likely delays, in minutes, for heavy goods vehicles carrying hazardous goods travelling north and south through the Dartford tunnel for each of the years 1988, 1989, 1990 1991 and 1992 at currently projected traffic levels;(2) if he will give estimates for the likely delays, in minutes, for heavy goods vehicles carrying hazardous goods travelling north and south following completion of a new Thames bridge at Dartford.
Vehicles carrying a defined range of hazardous goods — about 3 per cent. of all commercial vehicles—are escorted in convoys through the Dartford tunnels, minirnising the danger to the vehicles, to other traffic and to the structures. It is intended to continue this system if Parliament passes the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Bill, which would transfer the tunnels from Essex and Kent county councils to the Secretary of State.The new bridge, which the Bill would authorise, is intended to be open early in 1991. It will take all southbound traffic and vehicles carrying hazardous goods in that direction will not then be escorted. Northbound traffic of that kind will continue to be escorted.Vehicles carrying hazardous goods now wait for five to 10 minutes for an escort. When the bridge opens, the flexibility offered by two northbound tunnels may make it possible to provide more frequent escorts.At present, vehicles suffer varying delays at certain times when the tunnels cannot cope with the volume of traffic. It is not possible to calculate an average delay clue to this cause.