Lower Thames Crossing: Location C gets approval
Plans for a new Lower Thames Crossing were revealed on Wednesday 12th April by Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.
The announcement of the preferred route follows a comprehensive review of the original five options put forward for discussion by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2009. Two of the more easterly options were seen to be too far from the existing Dartford Crossing and as a result the likelihood that it would ease congestion was very slim so they were eliminated early on. In 2012, another study was conducted with the remaining three options which included;
- Option A: Located close to the existing crossing
- Option B: Connecting the A2 Swanscombe Peninsula with the A1089
- Option C: Connecting the A2/M2 with the M25 between junctions 29 and 30
- Option C variation: Which would additionally widen the A229 between the M2 and M20
In 2013, DfT held a public consultation with the outcome to not proceed with Option B and in 2014, the Government commissioned Highways England to assess the remaining options A and C.
The recent 2016 route consultation saw 47,000+ responses, making it the largest ever public consultation for a UK road project and as a result the Government announced the preferred route which will run from the end of the M2 near Rochester, cross the river to the east of Gravesend and join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 in Tilbury, Essex. The two-mile bored tunnel will help to unlock billions of pounds of investment with the project likely to cost between £4.4 - £6.2 billion, although the start date is still TBC, the new crossing is expected to be completed around 2025-2027.
The primary aim of the new crossing is to ease congestion and improve journey times, plus to providing an alternative crossing, away from Dartford to allow for new connections, network reliability and economic benefits. Highways England have been heavily involved from the start and therefore extensively considered the impact of the route options and mapped environmental constraints as part of the appraisal process including the consideration of factors like water, air, noise, cultural heritage and the landscape.
Highways England carefully studied the impact the big infrastructure would have on water resources like the River Thames, the Mardyke and the Medway Channel. Although there are several flood defences in place along the River Thames, all suggested routes could potentially affect areas of floodplain as well as surface and groundwater quality. However, when it comes to air quality, the area of the existing Dartford Crossing exceeds the European Union (EU) limits so by introducing a new crossing, it will allow for improved air quality in the surrounding areas of Dartford with the proposed route also being well within the EU limits. A bored tunnel will also significantly reduce the visual and noise impacts on local residents as well as reducing the impacts on the landscape, protected habitats and species.
Although the preferred route is estimated to effect up to 14 residential properties, as well as 22 traveller plots and three agricultural sites, Highways England ran a poll to ask the public “on balance, do you agree or disagree with our proposal for the location of a crossing at Location C?”. With a total of 32,872 responses, 19,729 (60%) agreed or strongly agreed with the proposed location, however, residents of Thurrock and Gravesham were strongly against the idea.
For more information on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, the full 2017 consultation response can be viewed here.
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Highways England Improvements and major road projects. (2017). A Highways England road project | Lower Thames Crossing. [online] Available at: http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/lower-thames-crossing/ [Accessed 18 Apr. 2017].
Highways England, (2017) Available at: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/lower-thames-crossing-consultation/user_uploads/lower-thames-crossing-consultation-factsheet---biodiversity--cultural-heritage-and-landscape.pdf. [Accessed 20 Apr. 2017]
Highways England, (2017) Available at: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/lower-thames-crossing-consultation/user_uploads/lower-thames-crossing-consultation-factsheet---water--air--noise-and-vibration.pdf. [Accessed 20 Apr. 2017].
Collier, H. (2017). New tunnel beneath River Thames to M25 given go ahead. [online] Evening Standard. Available at: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/lower-thames-crossing-new-twomile-m25-tunnel-beneath-river-is-announced-by-government-a3513426.html. [Accessed 18 Apr. 2017].
Highways England, (2017) Response Consultation 2017. [online] Available at: http://assets.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/Lower+thames+crossing/PRA/Highways+England%27s+Response+to+Consultation.pdf. [Accessed 18 Apr. 2017].
Echo. (2017) ‘We need your house’ – residents receive letter from Highways over propsed new Thames crossing route. [online] Available at: http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local_news/14237506._We_need_your_house____residents_receive_letter_from_Highways_over_proposed_new_Thames_crossing_route/. [Accessed 20 April 2017].
Highways England, (2017) Lower Thames Crossing Consultation Booklet [online] Available at: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/lower-thames-crossing-consultation/user_uploads/lower-thames-crossing-consultation-booklet.pdf. [Accessed 19 April 2017].