The new Lower Thames Crossing will create a new link between the A2 and the M25 and reduce the burden on the Dartford Crossing. It is expected to carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year.
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend. A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
This was the route recommended by Highways England to the Department of Transport in January 2017 after it emerged as the preferred option (out of two on offer) by a majority of the 47,000 respondents to a consultation process.
No timetable has been given for the start of construction but it is expected to be at least 10 years before anyone can drive through it.
In addition to the Lower Thames Crossing, the government is investing a further £66m to widen the A13 Stanford-le-Hope bypass from two to three lanes, unlocking the development of hundreds of new houses and improving links to Tilbury and new London Gateway ports.
“The decision for a new crossing east of Gravesend and Tilbury is underpinned by years of studies, assessments and careful consideration of the record breaking response to our 2016 consultation,” said Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan. “As we progress there will be further consultation and opportunities to be part of shaping the detail for the area, now and for future generations.”
The scheme will cost £4.4bn, Highways England says, and the new 70mph, 13-mile route and crossing will increase capacity for vehicles crossing the Thames east of London by 70%.
Around 55 million journeys are made each year on the Dartford Crossing, six million more than it was designed for, and it suffers from closures due to incidents almost daily.