Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced the preferred route for a new Lower Thames Crossing running from the M25 near North Ockendon, crossing the A13 at Orsett before going under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend. A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
The new crossing is expected to carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year and the Government hopes it could create more than 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than £8 billion.
The route was identified by the majority of nearly 47,000 respondents to a consultation on a new Lower Thames Crossing as the best solution for reducing traffic and congestion at the Dartford Crossing.
A further £10 million will be used to improve traffic flow at and around the existing crossing as well as studying ways to further tackle congestion. This will include a wide-ranging investigation into options to cut ‘rat-running’ through Dartford and Thurrock.
Transport Secretary Chris 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.”
In addition to the Lower Thames Crossing, the government is investing a further £66 million to widen the A13 Stanford-le-Hope bypass from 2 to 3 lanes. This will help create more than 4,000 jobs and unlock the development of hundreds of new houses, and improve links to Tilbury and new London Gateway ports. This investment is part of a £78.85 million Thurrock Council project scheduled to be complete by the end of 2019.
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, said, “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 4 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.”
However the Campaign for Better Transport said this will generate more traffic and harm the environment. Bridget Fox, Sustainable Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, said, “Building a major new road through protected countryside is not the right way to address the long standing problems of traffic, much of it HGVs, through Kent.
“Instead of squandering billions on yet another expensive new road that will inevitably fill up with traffic, leading to more congestion, a better solution would be to expand port capacity north of the Thames, improve freight and passenger rail links to Kent and look at measures like distance-based HGV charging to better manage traffic.”