A new tunnel under the River Thames and across Thurrock has been announced by the Government.
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 inn Kent near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
The Lower Thames Crossing is expected to carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year.
The route has the backing of Highways England which says it would reduce pressure on the Dartford Crossing and offer a shorter route to and from the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
Local residents and environmental campaigners though claim it will increase pollution and damage the countryside.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will be at the Dartford Crossing this afternoon (Wednesday) to fully unveil plans for the long-awaited project, more than a year after 47,000 people took part in Highways England’s consultation.
Mr 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.
“Our £23 billion investment into our roads is already making a difference, with schemes being completed across the country, including the M1 Catthorpe junction and A556 at Knutsford, cutting journey times for millions of motorists.
“The schemes announced today not only show we are taking decisions, we are planning upgrades and we are completing roads – making the lives of millions of motorists better.”
The finalised plans differ slightly from those laid out in the consultation, taking a different route around Shorne. Construction is still not expected to be complete for 10 years.
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, added: “The Port of Dover handles up to £119 billion 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.”