Highways England (HE) has released updated plans for a major new road linking Kent, Thurrock and Essex that would nearly double road capacity across the River Thames and almost halve northbound journey times at the Dartford Crossing.
Set to be the country’s most ambitious road project since the M25 London Orbital Motorway opened 30 years ago, the multi-billion-pound project will include the UK’s longest road tunnel, and is expected to connect communities, boost the economy, and add vital extra resilience to the road network while reducing pressure on the existing Dartford Crossing.
A new, 10-week consultation on the latest designs for the improvements has started and will run until December 20. A previous consultation on the proposals had responses from 47,000 people; a record for a UK road scheme. The improved proposals now published include:
• Making the whole route a three-lane dual carriageway to improve traffic-flow;
• A new rest and service area to the west of East Tilbury;
• A new design for the Tilbury junction, removing the proposed Tilbury link road to reduce traffic on the local road network;
• An improved junction with the A2.
The 14.5-mile (23.3km) long route connecting Gravesham in Kent and Thurrock in Essex is expected to reduce traffic at the Dartford Crossing by 22%, with 14 million fewer vehicles using it every year. It will almost halve the morning peak average journey times between M25 junctions 1b and 31 from nine minutes to just five.
The project will create a new, three-lane dual carriageway connecting the M2 near Rochester and the M25 in Essex between North and South Ockenden. It would include a 2.4-mile (3.8km) long tunnel under the Thames between Gravesend and Tilbury, which, at over 50ft (15.2m) wide, will be the third largest bored tunnel in the world. The plans include an updated, more detailed design that aims to maximize the project’s benefits, and includes significant changes to minimize the impact on local communities and the environment, including lowering the road surface to reduce its visual impact, and increasing its distance from residential properties to decrease noise levels.
“For too long the Dartford Crossing has been the only way to get across the Thames east of London. It is a vital gateway, but carries more traffic than it was ever designed for and drivers there suffer from regular delays, severing communities and holding back economic growth,” explained Tim Jones, HE’s project director for the Lower Thames Crossing.
“This is the most ambitious project of its kind ever in the UK and the biggest single road upgrade since the M25 was completed more than 30 years ago. It would almost double road capacity across the Thames, cutting congestion, significantly easing pressure at the Dartford Crossing, and boosting the resilience of the whole road network.”
Unveiling the new plans, UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, “The Lower Thames Crossing will help transform journeys, create new business opportunities in Kent and Essex and unlock productivity across the UK. It will also cut congestion at the Dartford Crossing and improve connectivity from our industrial heartland to our ports in the Southeast.”