ON TUESDAY, Highways England announced its preferred option for a Lower Thames Crossing, east of the existing Dartford Crossing, linking Gravesend in Kent and Tilbury in Essex.
As was reported, a tunnel will run under the River Thames between the two towns, providing a link between the end of the M2 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30, via the A13 in Essex.
Roads minister Andrew Jones said the Government was committed to delivering the project, which would add more than Â£7billion to the economy by increasing investment and business opportunities, as well as creating more than 5,000 new jobs nationally.
George Kieffer, chairman of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), which covers Thurrock, said: “Clearly this is a nationally-important piece of infrastructure. The additional crossing will also unlock important development potential, both commercial and industrial, and potentially residential along the Thames Gateway.
“Let’s not forget trucks that come through Dover don’t stop in Kent, they go all over the country delivering goods and taking exports away to the continent. It is like the A14, linking the Port of Felixstowe to the rest of the country – 35% of all traffic through the port goes to the government’s so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
“A 30-year view might have put the crossing even further east, but this is a good option. We are a little behind where we would like to be, and I would have liked to have seen it happen earlier.
“I am convinced this can be delivered with private finance, saving tax payers’ money to be used to do the important bit of linking the infrastructure to the M25 and A13.”
Mr Kieffer added that it would make sense to have the new crossing run by the same operator as the Dartford Crossing to ensure “uniformity of pricing”.
A consultation on the proposals, including some route variations either side of the Thames, has begun and runs until March 24, after which a final decision will be taken later this year.
Rodney Bass, Essex county councillor for infrastructure, said: “The importance and urgency of proceeding with a new Lower Thames Crossing cannot, in the view of Essex County Council, be overstated.
“We are delighted this Government is now moving forward swiftly on this issue with a clear preference for option C.
“Essex County Council is happy to work with other councils to see if the other option C variants can better support economic growth, reduce congestion and achieve improved environmental mitigation.