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Lower Thames tunnel plan generates unprecedented reaction

25 May 16 The proposed crossing of the Thames estuary between Gravesend and Tilbury has generated the biggest ever response to a public consultation for a UK road project, Highways England has revealed.

Highways England's preferred option is a pair of two-mile long bored tunnels
Highways England's preferred option is a pair of two-mile long bored tunnels

More than 47,000 people took part in a consultation for a new Lower Thames Crossing, such was the controversy generated over the scheme within north Kent in particular.

The consultation invited views on proposed routes for a new road crossing below the Thames, which would be the first new road crossing for the Thames east of London for 25 years and could unlock economic development opportunities.

Nearly 30,000 people expressed a view online, with a further 3,700 people completing a paper questionnaire and around 13,000 sending a letter or an email in response to the consultation. More than 500 local government and industry groups also responded to the consultation. In total, 47,034 responses were received.

The responses are now all being analysed before a final decision on a preferred route is made by the government, expected later this year. 

Highways England consultation manager Martin Potts said: “This is a fantastic level of engagement, and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to take part in the consultation.  We set out to reach as many people as possible, to let them know about our plans and to seek their views, and public’s response has exceeded our expectations. The route for a new Lower Thames Crossing is a massive decision and it is vital that we get it right. I am very encouraged at the significant number of responses that we have received, as they will really help us to make the best possible recommendation to government about the route that this vital new road link should take.”

In 2014, following a public consultation led by the Department for Transport, two locations were shortlisted for a new bridge or tunnel across the river: one near the existing Dartford Crossing and the other linking the M2 with the M25 via the A13, with a possible further link to the M20.

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Since then, Highways England has carried out detailed work to assess the shortlisted options and develop possible routes at each location. Following that evaluation, a new road crossing through a bored tunnel was proposed at location C. [See our previous report here.]

The route proposed at consultation would run from the end of the M2, crossing under the river just east of Gravesend and Tilbury and joining the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.

The length of the recommended option is 14.2 miles, with two miles of twin tunnels, and the estimated cost of the scheme is between £4.3bn and £5.9bn.

A consultation on the proposals ran from 26th January to 24th March 2016 and will be used to help decide a preferred route for the crossing by the secretary of state for transport later this year. From there, Highways England will develop the next stage of the project’s assessment and design, which will be the basis for a further public consultation. If all goes to plan, Highways England will then make a development consent order application,  beginning the formal planning process for the new road.

Subject to the necessary funding and planning approvals, the new crossing would be open in 2025, if publicly funded. If private funding is also used to meet the costs of the project, it is anticipated the crossing would be open by 2027.

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