Britain’s longest road tunnel project enters second phase of public consultation

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The multi-billion pound project to build Britain’s longest road tunnel and the world’s third largest bore tunnel took a step closer with a second phase of public consultation beginning following recent amendments.

Mocked-up images of the proposed 14.3-mile Lower Thames Crossing which will connect Kent, Essex and Thurrock have also been released by Highways England to coincide with this next phase of the project.

The changes made followed detailed analysis of the 29,000 responses received during the last consultation held in 2018, and new technical information following surveys and ground investigations.

The Woodland Trust have attacked the possibility that the ecological impact of the Lower Thames Crossing will affect 54ha of woodland, which is only 1ha less than that of the 400-mile HS2 train project.

Once completed, the road is expected to double road capacity across the River Thames east of London, connecting communities, reducing delays and providing more reliable journeys.

The eight-week consultation began today (00:01 29 January) and will end at 23:59 on 25 March.

People can respond in the consultation by visiting one of 20 events in Kent, Essex and Thurrock, by completing an online survey through the Lower Thames Crossing website, sending a form via Freepost, or sending an email.

Chris Taylor, director of Highways England’s Complex Infrastructure Programme, said:

“The Lower Thames Crossing is Highways England’s most ambitious project in 30 years, designed to improve journeys across the southeast and open up new connections and opportunities for people and businesses.

“Getting the views of the local community and businesses is crucial to designing a project that will offer the best value, maximise the benefits for all, while reducing the impact on local communities and the environment. This consultation is a chance for people to review and comment on a number of changes made since our last consultation in 2018, and to help shape this once-in-a-generation project.”

The updates to the design include:

  • Providing direct access between Gravesend and the A2/M2 eastbound, and a redesigned Gravesend East junction and link roads to reduce congestion;
  • Extending the southern tunnel entrance (in Gravesend) 350 metres south to move the road away from properties in Chalk and reduce impact on protected bird habitats in the Ramsar Marshes and the Thames Estuary;
  • Removing the rest and service area and maintenance depot after further investigation and consideration of the issues raised during statutory consultation, which means the junction at Tilbury is no longer required;
  • Moving the alignment of the route between Tilbury and the A13 junction by approximately 60 metres (north-east) to avoid pylons and overhead cables;
  • Redesigning some slip roads around the A13/A1089 junction to move roads away from properties, improve safety at the junctions, and improve visual impact, and;
  • Removing one lane southbound between the M25 and A13 junction to reduce the amount of land required, while still providing sufficient capacity.
  • More details on the construction plans for the Lower Thames Crossing;
  • A revised development boundary resulting from of the design changes, proposed utility diversions and additional land required for environmental mitigation, and;
  • A set of proposals for maintaining, improving and upgrading the walking, cycling and horse-riding network around the Lower Thames Crossing.

Once the consultation closes in March, Highways England will analyse the new responses ahead of finalising its plans to seek planning consent for the project, through submitting a Development Consent Order (DCO).

As part of the DCO application, Highways England will submit a Consultation Report, explaining how the issues raised during both consultations were considered and responded to.

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James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.

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