Roads agency sets out raft of sustainability plans for project expected to double road capacity across the Thames east of London
National Highways has announced it plans to make the controversial Lower Thames Crossing the “greenest road ever built in the UK” by tapping a range of pioneering sustainability measures, including through the use of low carbon construction materials, clean energy, sustainable waste management practices, and carbon offsets.
The roads agency announced on Friday it would make the road a “pathfinder project” that would explore how to deliver carbon neutral construction and “help the UK reach net zero by 2050”.
The road, which would run from Essex to Kent, has faced fierce criticism from environmentalists over the years, who have argued the plans would destroy irreplaceable ancient woodland and would increase car use at a time when a shift towards lower carbon forms of transport is needed to meet climate goals.
The Crossing is part of a package of more than 50 schemes that make up the government’s £27bn road development programme, which has attracted significant opposition from campaigners and was unsuccessfully challenged last year in the High Court, on the grounds the UK’s climate objectives had not been taken into account in the plans.
But National Highways, which plans to submit an application for a Development Consent Order for the crossing later this year, stressed that it had managed to slash the predicted construction emissions of Lower Thames Crossing by a third thanks to careful route and structure design and plans to scale up the use of zero carbon energy, use low-carbon building materials, and reduce waste. And it said it intended to develop an “even more ambitious carbon baseline” through the procurement process, arguing the road would become the “first major infrastructure project in the UK to put carbon reduction at the heart of its procurement”.
Lower Thames Crossing’s executive director Matt Palmer said roads would play a “critical role in keeping people and the country’s economy moving now and long in our low carbon future”.
“We want to make the Lower Thames Crossing the greenest road ever built in the UK, and as a pathfinder project we will push the boundaries in construction and show how we and other large infrastructure projects can help the UK reach net zero,” he said.
The project developers said they planned to work with a broad range of partners, from major engineering firms to small businesses and universities, to identify, test and scale-up innovative ways of building and maintaining low carbon infrastructure.
It said it was already looking at alternatives to carbon-intensive materials such as concrete and steel, as well as replacing diesel fuel at its sites with hydrogen and electric plants. It said it will address residual emissions with carbon offsets to achieve a carbon neutral certification.
They have also promised to share the plans with the supply chain and wider industry so they can be replicated, arguing this could make the project “a catalyst for change across the industry”.
It added that its ambitious carbon reduction targets would be matched by plans to enhance biodiversity, build new parks and woodland and promote active travel.
Roads minister Baroness Vere welcomed National Highways’ plans. “Exploring carbon neutral construction is crucial to our efforts to decarbonise our transport network and build back greener from the pandemic,” she said. “I hope this groundbreaking proposal will pave the way for other innovative, green solutions to road building in the future.”
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Source: Business Green