Transport secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed his backing for a Lower Thames Crossing and announced the preferred route for the scheme, which could cost up to £6bn.
The route will comprise a bored tunnel under the Thames east of Gravesend and Tilbury (Location C), a new road north of the river that will join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 (Route 3) and a new road south of the river that will join the A2 east of Gravesend (the Western Southern Link).
A map of the preferred route
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.’
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the crossing could create more than 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than £8bn by reducing the pressure on the Dartford Crossing improving links to London and the Channel ports. It is is expected to carry 4.5 million HGVs in its first year.
Highways England chief executive Jim O'Sullivan told Traffex visitors last week the scheme was expected to cost between £4bn and £6bn.
The DfT said the route was identified as the best solution by the majority of nearly 47,000 respondents to a consultation.
However the announcement received a mixed reaction. Leaders of the three political parties on Thurrock Council called the decision ‘an outrage’ and claimed that the Government had kept residents ‘in the dark for months’.
Bridget Fox of the Campaign for Better Transport said: ‘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.’
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership described Mr Grayling’s decision and backing for other local transport projects as ‘a major economic shot in the arm’.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘Whilst it is motorists who account for the majority of the journeys at the Dartford Crossing, the need for another link across the Thames is being driven in large part by the rapid rise in freight traffic and the expansion of the Channel ports.’
He added: ‘The requirement for extra road capacity between Kent and Essex will already be well understood by long-suffering users of the existing crossing. However, planners will also have had an eye on official figures which predict that traffic volumes on our motorways and major roads could increase by 60% by 2040.’