The consultation is the first step in deciding on the location of a new lower Thames road crossing, which was one of the top 40 infrastructure projects in the government’s 2011 national infrastructure plan.
Three options have been proposed:
• option A: at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock crossing
• option B: connecting the A2 Swanscombe Peninsula with the A1089
• option C: connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30
A variant to option C would additionally widen the A229 between the M2 and M20
Roads minister Stephen Hammond said: “With traffic levels expected to increase by a fifth over the next 30 years, it is vital we take action now on the future of a new Lower Thames crossing to make sure that our road network is able to meet the future economic needs of the country.
“There are some tough decisions to be made, but this is the first step in making sure that the residents, businesses and motorists who rely on the crossing receive the service they expect and deserve in the years to come.
“I encourage anyone who uses the existing crossing or has an interest in the location of the new crossing to let us have their views on these proposals. This will enable us to make the right decision on the location of the new crossing.”
The Dartford crossing is operating above its design capacity and there are often long queues for the toll plazas, although there are plans to replace the toll barriers with automatic charging.
However, even with these improvements there will be a future need for additional river crossing capacity, the DfT reckons.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) welcomed movement on the scheme, which it described as essential.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that improving capacity and easing congestion at Dartford is essential, therefore FTA believes that there is a definite requirement for a third Thames crossing, but we have to ensure that the best option is selected, providing real relief on this important national artery.
“There is a terrific opportunity here that must not be wasted, and strong leadership to decide what the best option is has to be paramount. FTA will help with determining what the right option is by consulting with its members on what that best crossing will be.”
The consultation runs until Tuesday 16 July.