The UK Government has put forward three options for tackling congestion and capacity issues in the lower Thames area. The plans for a new Lower Thames crossing now enter a consultation stage, which is open until July 16, with its decisions to be announced in the autumn 2013. The existing Dartford-Thurrock crossing experiences high levels of traffic, with typical daily traffic flows of 140,000 vehicles, compared to the original design capacity of the crossing which was 135,000. Traffic flows are expected to increase by 10-20% southbound and by 2-10% northbound between 2009 and 2041. The three possible options are: Option A - at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock crossing; Option B - connecting the A2 Swanscombe Peninsula with the A1089; and Option C - connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30. There is a variant to option C that would additionally widen the A229 between the M2 and M20.
All three options have been proposed based on a number of successive studies investigating the need for additional crossing capacity and its location, with the final decision based on consideration of economic, environmental and social impacts, as well as the potential cost, affordability and value for money. Announcing the plans, UK Roads Minister, Stephen Hammond, said, “The existing river crossing capacity in the Lower Thames area, the Dartford-Thurrock crossing, is operating above the capacity it was designed for, and there is already serious congestion at the crossing, with negative consequences for business productivity and the national economy. This crossing forms a key route within the strategic road network. It completes the orbital route of the M25 around London and provides the only crossing of the River Thames east of London. In addition, the existing crossing is located in the Thames Gateway area, where we expect substantial redevelopment and growth.”
Hammond continued, “The Government is committed to tackling the congestion at the Dartford-Thurrock crossing and will improve traffic flows by introducing free flow charging technology to replace the existing cash charge collection and extensive toll plazas. However, even with these improvements, there will be a future need for additional river crossing capacity. With traffic levels expected to increase by a fifth over the next 30 years, it is vital we take action now on the future of a new Lower Thames crossing to make sure that our road network is able to meet the future economic needs of the country. There are some tough decisions to be made, but this is the first step in making sure that the residents, businesses and motorists who rely on the crossing, receive the service they expect and deserve in the years to come.”
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