Transport secretary Chris Grayling has today (12 April 2017) announced the preferred route for a new Lower Thames Crossing. The crossing will create a new link between the A2 and the M25 and reduce the burden on the busy Dartford Crossing. The Lower Thames Crossing is expected to carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year.
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury via a two-mile long tunnel to Gravesend. A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
The route was identified by the majority of nearly 47,000 respondents to a consultation on a new Lower Thames Crossing as the best solution for reducing traffic and congestion at the Dartford Crossing and for boosting the economy by improving links to London and the Channel ports.
Studies revealed that although a bridge was the cheapest option for the site at an estimated cost of up to £5.5bn, a bored tunnel was preferred as it offers the lowest environmental impact in the area, with an estimated cost of up to £5.9bn, including new motorway approach roads.
A further £10m will be used to improve traffic flow at and around the existing crossing as well as studying ways to further tackle congestion. This will include a wide-ranging investigation into options to cut ‘rat-running’ through Dartford and Thurrock.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are making the big decisions for Britain. The new Lower Thames Crossing, and other improvements in and around Dartford and Thurrock announced today, will further strengthen our economy while also creating thousands of jobs.” Grayling said that the crossing could create more than 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than £8bn.
In addition to the Lower Thames Crossing, the government is investing a further £66m to widen the A13 Stanford-le-Hope bypass from two to three lanes. This will help create more than 4,000 jobs and unlock the development of hundreds of new houses, and improve links to Tilbury and new London Gateway ports. This investment is part of a £78.85m Thurrock Council project scheduled to be complete by the end of 2019.
Christian Brodie, chairman of South East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is excellent news for Kent and Essex and will have a significant economic impact. The investments announced will strengthen the resilience of our UK and European connections – imperative as we now move towards Brexit. However, the benefits go far beyond Kent and Essex. With the current Dartford Crossing already operating at capacity and freight traffic continuing to grow, the new crossing will also support the government’s wider economic aspirations for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.”
Tim Waggott, Port of Dover chief executive, said: “The Port of Dover handles up to £119bn of trade or 17% of the UK’s trade in goods and is vital to the UK’s trading relationship with Europe, our largest and nearest trading partner. Half of its freight traffic is heading beyond London to support economic activity in the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse government priority areas. With freight traffic through Dover growing by a third in only four years and with a forecast 40% growth in freight traffic by the end of the next decade, it is essential that traffic fluidity is maintained and enhanced on this key trade corridor connecting the rest of the UK with mainland Europe.
“The Lower Thames Crossing is an essential ingredient of the strategic infrastructure mix required to deliver national economic prosperity. The port fully supports today’s announcement by the government and warmly welcomes its commitment to keep the nation’s traffic and trade moving.”