Dartford Crossing

New road tunnel under Thames gets green light from transport chiefs

Image credit: Dreamstime

Transport chiefs have given the go-ahead for a new road tunnel under London's River Thames. The scheme, aimed at easing the road traffic logjam, looks likely to outrage environmental groups.

One of Britain’s longest road tunnels looks set to be built as part of a £6bn project intended to improve connections between Kent and Essex, ease horrendous cross-river congestion and make links with continental Europe less burdened by traffic jams.

As part of the scheme, a two-mile tunnel will be bored under the Thames, linking Gravesend with Tilbury.

Critics say the scheme will tear up hundreds of acres of arable greenbelt land and will simply encourage more people to travel by car, thereby worsening logjam overall.

There are also fears that traffic using the new crossing will blight communities with pollution on approach roads.

It is thought that, when completed, the tunnel will be the joint-longest of its kind in the UK, alongside Merseyside’s Queensway Tunnel.

It will also be the first new road crossing of the Thames east of London since the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge opened in 1991.

That bridge, along with the Dartford tunnel carrying northbound traffic, forms part of the M25 orbital motorway encircling the UK capital.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced today that the Gravesend-Tilbury project was the government’s preferred choice of route for a new crossing of the Lower Thames.

East London and the so-called Thames Gateway suffer from notorious traffic jams, particularly at the approaches to the various tunnels and bridges that cross the river.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan last year gave the green light to another cross-river road tunnel to link Royal Docks with the Greenwich Peninsula.

Although Khan also announced a new bridge for cyclists and walkers, he was attacked by environmentalists for encouraging roadbuilding.

The Lower Thames Crossing is expected to carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year and the announcement has been warmly welcomed by the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which said it would reduce journey times to the Channel ports.

However, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett warned: “Our main concern is that the anticipated completion date will be ten years from now. If traffic levels continue to increase at their current levels, the new crossing may be obsolete before it even opens.”

Christian Brodie, Chairman of South East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The investments announced will strengthen the resilience of our UK and European connections – imperative as we now move towards Brexit.”

Tim Waggott, Port of Dover Chief Executive, said: “With freight traffic through Dover growing by a third in only four years and with a forecast 40 per cent 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.”

Bridget Fox, of the 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.

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