Lower Thames Crossing
Lower Thames Crossing
Businesses have until Thursday 24 March, to give their views on a new Lower Thames Crossing after the Highways Agency launched a consultation process on its preferred route linking Kent and Essex.
With the Dartford Crossing already operating at 108% capacity and with the Department for Transport predicting the free flow tolls will have only a limited lifespan in terms of handling the increasing number of vehicles, the option of building a new crossing alongside the current tunnels and QEII Bridge has been dropped.
Highways England has accepted that another crossing at Dartford would not meet the key criteria of providing value for money, or economic return, nor tackle the issue of long delays and on-going congestion.
As a result it is now consulting on two potential routes south of the River Thames in Kent as part of its preferred route, known previously as Option C. One option could see Essex linked to Kent at the A2. The second alternative route would be located further east joining the M2 at Junction 1 ensuring a 70 mile per hour motorway-to-motorway connection along the full route.
The easterly Kent option linking the new road to the M2 is the one welcomed most by the business community, with many arguing for further improvements to other key parts of the county’s road network en route to the Channel Ports.
North of the river in Essex, there are three potential route options being consulted on joining the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.
Paul Wookey, Locate in Kent’s Chief Executive, said: “Of the two Kent route options, the easterly link connecting the new route directly to the M2 offers the quickest and shortest route for traffic south of the river and arguably makes the most economic sense. However, this must be balanced against its environmental impact.
“Either of Highways England’s route options in Kent would reduce congestion at Dartford by providing an alternative route, especially for traffic heading to and from Dover and Eurotunnel. It would also improve the perception of North Kent, and we believe will attract new investment and jobs.”
The route east of Gravesend is also being widely supported by many organisations and businesses in the county, including Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and FSB Kent & Medway, as it will support business growth and the ability to handle the forecast increase in freight and passengers travelling through Kent.
A survey of property developers and investors undertaken by Locate in Kent recently highlighted the negative impact that congestion at Dartford has on the area’s attractiveness to business.
It found that nearly three quarters of respondents believed the county has become a more attractive place for development and investment in the last five years.
However, more that 60% of these people believed that congestion and delays around the Dartford Crossing have had an adverse effect on investment in Kent.
Paul Wookey added: “Our High Speed 1 connections, proximity to London and Europe, competitive rents and the improving economy were all factors identified by respondents to the survey as making the county more attractive, and a new crossing will be a further factor in Kent’s favour.
“It is imperative that the crossing is not viewed in isolation, but also considers the wider implications of the forecast dramatic increase in traffic on the Kent road network. There is the danger that, while we may create two effective crossing points we may push congestion to other parts of the county unless we view the road network as a whole and invest accordingly.”
Visitors to www.new-thamescrossing.co.uk will be able to leave their views on the preferred route directly with Highways England via the Consultation tab, or direct at https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/lower-thames-crossing-consultation/consultation/intro/view
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