New crossing is needed, but is likely to face opposition from environmentalists.
Transport officials revived plans for a new Thames crossing at Dartford this week when they published options for tackling congestion and improving road capacity across the river.
A report produced for the Department for Transport by consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff and WSP recommends that a new crossing at one of three sites be considered. More work will also be done to identify whether the existing crossing’s toll plaza should be upgraded to smooth traffic flows across the river as a short term measure.
The crossing currently comprises two dual-lane tunnels carrying northbound traffic and the four-lane cable-stayed Queen Elizabeth II bridge which carries southbound traffic. The crossings form part of the M25 London Orbital route. The crossing is a well known congestion blackspot.
Many more vehicles want to use the crossing than it can accomodate
The study concludes that the existing crossing is operating at or above its effective capacity for long periods, with typical daily flows of between 145,000 and 150,000 vehicles per day. It adds that the impact of the expansion of the Port of Dover, growth in the Thames Gateway, and the development of the London Gateway port will worsen congestion unless action is taken.
It proposes three options:
- Duplicating the existing Crossing
- Connecting the A13 and A2 via the Swanscombe Penisula and the A1089
- Connecting the M25 to the M20 via a new link from east of Tilbury to east of Gravesend.
“The Dartford-Thurrock river crossing is a vital transport link for both the national and South East economies which has brought huge economic benefits and opportunities,” said transport minister Lord Adonis. “However many more vehicles want to use the crossing than it can accommodate and congestion here is likely to get worse in the future unless something is done. “Further work is now to be carried out to look at improving journey time reliability and safety at the existing Dartford Crossing, alongside a more detailed analysis of potential options for a new crossing.”
Essex and Kent County Councils welcomed the move. “Motorists and businesses don’t deserve and won’t put up with the current inadequate link between Kent and Essex costing the economy millions of pounds a year and we welcome the fact the government now recognise this,” said Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield.
Previous proposals for crossings over the Thames have raised fears about increased traffic, noise and pollution. “This government’s last attempt to build a road bridge over the Thames was soundly defeated at public inquiry less than two years ago,” said Campaign for Better Transport’s roads and climate campaigner Richard George.