Essential guide to: The Lower Thames Crossing
PUBLISHED: 09:31 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:43 12 April 2017
Where will it go, how much will it cost, when will it open and why do we need one? Find all the answers right here
The decision on a Lower Thames Crossing has been made - and it will, as expected, be going east of Gravesham.
The multi-billion pound project is seen as essential to easing the congestion at Dartford.
Not to sure about what it means for you? Here’s our essential guide.
What is it?
The Lower Thames Crossing is a proposed new link between Kent and Essex, crossing over the Thames Estuary.
Why is it needed?
Basically, to provide some well-needed relief to a choked Dartford Crossing. At least, that’s what advocates of the proposals say.
And even the people who are opposed to the new crossing have agreed that there is a need to do something about the congestion, and improve the resilience of the road network.
Where is it going to go?
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend. A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2. It was dubbed ‘Option C’ during the consultation process.
Is that a suprise?
Er. No. In truth it was expected by even the most ardent campaigner against it.
A consultation on this very point was carried out at the start of 2016.
During the consultation, Highways England declared its preferred route to be a crossing east of Gravesend.
The proposal would see a road built from the start of the M2, heading north through the Gravesham countryside, passing villages such as Shorne, before a bored tunnel would cross into Tilbury, there a road would join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 in Ockendon.
Option A was for a second crossing built in Dartford, alongside the existing crossing.
Whilst Highways England has highlighted Option C as its preferred route, the government had said Option A was ‘still very much on the table’ - although few believed it was a realistic option.
What was Option B?
There was an Option B - connecting the A2 with the A1089, but it was discarded due to its potential disruption to the proposed new theme park - the London Paramount Resort - on the Swanscombe Peninsula.
Will it be a toll road like the Dartford Crossing?
Now that’s a good question. No-one has said anything about that yet. But what do you reckon?
Is everyone happy about it?
In short, no. Both boroughs would rather see the crossing within the other’s boundaries.
Gravesham Borough Council has been united in its opposition to a proposed bored tunnel in its countryside since before the consultation began.
Campaigners from the borough feel a crossing east of Gravesend wouldn’t help to relieve the growing pressure on the Dartford Crossing, and would instead damage green land and the local area’s character.
During the consultation, campaigners and politicians and local figures met with the transport secretary to discuss the proposal, which is when they were told that Option A was still being considered, despite Highways England’s recommendation.
Campaigners have also criticised how the consultation was carried out, suggesting it showed bias towards Option C.
At a public meeting, then-Gravesham council leader John Cubitt said of the document: “It’s regarded by most people as a sales brochure for Option C put out by Highways England.”
But in Dartford, both the council and local MP Gareth Johnson believe Option C would help move some traffic away from the town, which has come under increasing pressure despite the removal of toll booths in 2014, when the crossing became free-flowing.
KCC has also voiced its support for a crossing east of Gravesend - which caused senior Gravesham county councillor Bryan Sweetland to step down from his cabinet post as the county’s lead councillor for commercial services.
Environmentalists fear the crossing could threaten a ‘green lung’ in Kent’s countryside which almost acts as a divider for pollution from the M2 and the M25 crossing.
In truth, both options have major draw backs, but it is hard to come up with a compelling case that suggests Dartford’s congestion woes should be further added to. However tough a thought that is for those east of Gravesend.
How many people use the Dartford Crossing then?
Currently, there are around 50 million journeys each year either through the original Dartford tunnels or across the QEII Bridge - the last crossing to be built which was opened back in 1991.
When the new crossing is opened, it is estimated 77,000 vehicles would use the link each day in its first year. Around 4.5 million HGVs are expected to use it within the first year.
You can expect that number to continually increase in line with our reliance on our vehicles.
And how much is this going to cost?
They don’t come cheap these crossings you know. Estimates put the cost between £4.3 billion and £5.9 billion. Let’s assume it will probably be in excess of £6bn by the time we get to use it. You know what these things are like. However, the government says it will boost the economy to the tune of around £8bn.
And when would we be driving through it?
The new crossing is apparently on course to open in 2025, if all goes to plan.