BUSINESSES from across Essex and Kent have been encouraged by Highways England, the organisation delivering the new Lower Thames Crossing, to start preparing for an £8 billion boost to the South East economy.
At an event organised by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), more than a hundred senior representatives from business and local authorities saw Highways England provide an animated fly-through of the 13-mile route connecting the M25 in Essex and the A2 in Kent.
The £4.4 – £6.2 billion crossing east of Gravesend and Tilbury is expected to provide £8 billion in economic benefits, along with the creation of 6,000 jobs and training opportunities. It will also create prospects for further growth in housing, and support international trade by connecting to the Port of Tilbury and improving transport links to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel in Kent.
The SELEP ‘Robots, Routes, Revenue’ event welcomed Tim Jones, Highways England Project Director for the Lower Thames Crossing, who provided an update including recent route design changes.
Before unveiling the animation at the event, Mr Jones said: “We are working closely with local businesses, communities and authorities to ensure we make the most of the new crossing’s potential to unlock economic growth, provide more jobs and homes, and improve access to leisure and retail opportunities.
“The Lower Thames Crossing offers a once in a generation opportunity to significantly improve connections between Essex Thurrock and Kent, and I know the businesses at today’s event are keen to support us in helping to fully realise the benefits this crossing will bring.”
The update on the Lower Thames Crossing coincided with SELEP’s work on its Strategic Economic Plan, designed to drive forward the economy of Kent, Essex and East Sussex.
Christian Brodie, Chairman of SELEP, added: “For an area to grow and prosper it must have a vision and know where it wants to be, and that is why we are updating the Strategic Economic Plan.
“We must invest in our roads, rail and airports in order to help attract new businesses and jobs, and create an environment that stimulates economic growth.
“If we are to improve our productivity we must invest in our people, our places and our products, and it is imperative we bring forward investment in our infrastructure.”
The Lower Thames Crossing will be the UK’s largest road scheme project and add an extra 70 per cent traffic capacity across the Thames east of London. It will deliver the largest diameter road tunnel in the UK and ease the pressure on the existing Dartford Crossing.
The current Dartford Crossing handles 55 million journeys a year, six million more than it was designed for and suffers closures almost every day due to traffic incidents.
The Lower Thames Crossing design updates in Essex will see changes to the proposed junction with the M25 between junctions 29 and 30. It aims to provide a safer junction with greater capacity that also blends better with the local landscape.
The junction of the A13 has also been redesigned to improve traffic flows and the junction with the A128 has been removed. Concerns from the local community about the effects of a junction at Orsett Cock on local roads and traffic levels has led to changes to the link to the A13.
A new junction and link road at Tilbury is included in the proposals following widespread support for the investment in order to boost the local and regional economy by improving the connections to the Port of Tilbury. Highways England believes the junction changes proposed for Tilbury will reduce HGV traffic on local roads.
Highways England is also proposing that the route between the A13 in Essex and A2 in Kent is three lanes in both directions and through the tunnels. This will involve widening the A2 to junction 1 of the M2 near Shorne to improve traffic flows.
The proposed junction with the A226 has also been removed following feedback from residents and businesses that it would increase local traffic in the area.
Commenting on the design changes, Mr Brodie added: “It is clear Highways England has listened to businesses and local communities.
“We recognise there are those on both sides of the Thames that will be affected, but believe Highways England is doing all it can to mitigate the impact.
“The new crossing is much more than just a tunnel with a road at either end as it will have a positive impact on the economy of the SELEP area, and the UK as a whole.”
Further information on the Highways England design update can be found at www.lowerthamescrossing.co.uk.