HIGHWAYS England’s multi-billion pound plan for a major new road linking Kent, Thurrock and Essex has reached the final consultation stage.
The government agency has backed its proposals by saying the new road directly linking the M25 in the north of Thurrock and the A2 in Kent will nearly double road capacity across the river Thames and almost halve northbound journey times at Dartford Crossing.
The formal consultation documents say the project will connect communities, boost the economy and add vital extra resilience to the road network while reducing pressure on the existing Dartford Crossing. It is described as the most ambitious road project since the M25 opened 30 years ago and will include the UK’s longest road tunnel.
The improved proposals published include:
+ Making the whole route a three-lane dual carriageway to improve traffic-flow;
+ A new rest and service area to the west of East Tilbury;
+ A new design for the Tilbury junction, removing the proposed Tilbury link road to reduce traffic on the local road network, and;
+ An improved junction with the A2.
Highways England says the 14.5 mile route connecting Gravesham in Kent and Thurrock in Essex is expected to reduce traffic at Dartford by 22 per cent with 14 million fewer vehicles using it every year and it will almost halve the morning peak average journey times between M25 junctions 1b and 31 from nine minutes to just five.
The tunnel emerging on the north bank of the Thames.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are making the biggest investment in improving our roads since the 1970s, ensuring journeys are quicker and safer. The lower Thames crossing will help transform journeys, create new business opportunities and unlock productivity across the UK.
“It will also cut congestion at the Dartford Crossing and improve connectivity from our industrial heartland to our ports in the South East.”
Tim Jones, Project Director for Lower Thames Crossing, said: “For too long the Dartford Crossing has been the only way to get across the Thames east of London. It is a vital gateway, but carries more traffic than it was ever designed for and drivers there suffer from regular delays, severing communities and holding back economic growth.
“The lower Thames crossing is the most ambitious project of its kind ever in the UK and the biggest single road upgrade since the M25 was completed more than 30 years ago.
“ It would almost double road capacity across the Thames cutting congestion, significantly easing pressure at the Dartford Crossing and boosting the resilience of the whole road network.
“This consultation is an important opportunity for people to share their views on our proposals and I urge anyone who has an interest to have their say.”
Highways England reports 47,000 people had their say in a previous consultation – a record for a UK road scheme. A new, ten-week consultation on the latest designs for the improvements is now open and runs until Thursday, 20 December.
The plans published include an updated, more detailed design and the agency says they include significant changes to minimise the impact on local communities and the environment.
Numerous measures have also been included to reduce the impact that the new road will have on local communities, including:
Extending the tunnel so the tunnel entrance in Kent is 600 metres further south to reduce the visual impact and protect access to a community church;
Lowering road by five to six metres in places to reduce its visual impact;
Moving the road 80 metres further east where is passes Chadwell St Mary to increase the distance from residential properties.
Some 25 public information events are being help across Kent and Essex, as well as and 30 visits to local communities to help people understand more about the proposals and put any questions directly to the project team.
All information is available at www.lowerthamescrossing.co.uk/haveyoursay.