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Transport minister refuses to be drawn on Lower Thames Crossing decision as Dartford congestion debate returns to Westminster

PUBLISHED: 15:54 08 December 2016

South portal Lower Thames Crossing

South portal Lower Thames Crossing

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Dartford MP Gareth Johnson wants the government to give the green light to plans for a new crossing east of Gravesend

A transport minister refused to give any indication as to when a decision will be made on a Lower Thames Crossing after a debate on congestion at Dartford rolled into Westminster this week.

North Kent MP Gareth Johnson called the debate on Wednesday to pile further pressure on the government which is currently assessing responses from its consultation on plans for another crossing between Kent and Essex to help ease existing traffic woes.

Highways England’s preferred route for the crossing, known as Option C, is located east of Gravesend.

It would see a bored tunnel developed near the village of Chalk, with a new road being built from junction 1 of the M2 to join the M25 in Essex between junctions 29 and 30.

Mr Johnson said: “This decision is keenly awaited and we all want a decision to be made swiftly primarily so we can get on with building the next crossing so there can be some alleviation of the congestion that Dartford suffers with on a daily basis and until we have that I will be continuing to harass the transport secretary and roads minister.

“The approach to the Dartford crossing is, in my submission, the worst stretch of road in the whole of the United Kingdom.

“Not only does it have some of the worst congestion but to add insult to injury you have to pay to use the crossing - you have to often pay to sit in traffic.

“We are sick to the back teeth in Dartford of congestion at the crossing and we ask that a plan is put forward swiftly to deal with the existing problems, and more importantly, we have the Lower Thames Crossing built where it gives an alternative to the motorist, which is east of Gravesend.”

The Conservative also referenced a parody song produced by satirical Essex-based website Southend News Network, which this week became available to download, that he said “illustrates very clearly the frustration many people experience when using the Dartford Crossing”.

A decision was widely expected to be made before the end of the year but responding to Mr Johnson, transport minister John Hayes kept his cards close to his chest.

“We will take a decision when we’ve considered responses and reported on the findings and conclusions on the location, route and type of crossing,” he said.

“Subject to the necessary funding planning approvals, we anticipate the new crossing if publicly-funded could be open in 2025.

“Highways England will continue, on my instruction, to closely monitor the conditions at the crossing, understand the various factors contributing to performance and to ensure we use this crossing in the most effective and efficient manner.”

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