LOWER THAMES CROSSING DECISION DELAYED
It is now 9 months since Highways England’s consultation on the proposed new Lower Thames Crossing was completed, and yet still no announcement has been made on the location of the new crossing. After what was expected by many to be a foregone conclusion to go with Highways England’s preferred route east of Gravesend, it now appears that the Government is taking a much closer look at other options.
This follows campaigning by Gravesham MP Adam Holloway, South Basildon & East Thurrock MP Stephen Metcalfe, and local campaigners from both sides of the River Thames, to persuade the Government to look at Option A14.
During the Parliamentary debate initiated by Dartford MP Gareth Johnson this week, Transport Minister John Hayes refused to be drawn on the long-awaited decision on the location of the new Lower Thames Crossing. He said that no decision has been made, and that the Government is looking carefully at all the options for the new crossing.
The Transport Minister has recognised that traffic at the existing crossing at Dartford suffers frequent interruptions due to over-height HGVs and the need to escort petrol tankers through the tunnels, and suffers a high number of accidents and incidents on the tunnel approaches. As well as instructing Highways England to look at ways of improving the signage and road layout on the approaches to the crossing, he has told them to carry out a further study of traffic flow forecasts for the new crossing proposals.
So what is Option A14?
Option A14 is one of a number of possible routes that was considered by Highways England, but which was not taken forward to their short list. It is for motorway tunnels linking the M25 from 800 metres south of junction 2 in Kent, to 1.3km past junction 30 in Essex.
The tunnels would bypass the A282, including the junctions with the A2 and the A13, and would pass under the river approximately 800 metres downstream of the existing Dartford Crossing.
Supporters of this scheme point out that it would finally complete the M25, and remove all motorway through traffic from the A282, dramatically reducing congestion and pollution through the populated areas of Dartford and Thurrock.
They also say that since the whole of the bypass will be underground, it would be possible to capture and filter the exhaust emissions, and discharge them away from populated areas.
Costing £6.6bn, this would be the most expensive of the options being considered, but would result in the least impact on the countryside in Kent and Essex.