Kent County Council this week became the first interested party set out its preferences for the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.
Its main preference is that the third crossing is not alongside the existing two crossings at Dartford.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is expected to launch a public consultation on three corridors for the crossing in May.
Consultant Aecom is studying bridge and tunnel options for the DfT at the three locations.
They are at Dartford adjacent to the existing bridge; west of Tilbury to the Swanscombe Peninsula; and east of Tilbury to east of Gravesend. The DfT will then reduce the shortlist to put forward a preferred bridge or tunnel option for each location.
But speaking to NCE this week, Kent County Council director of planning and environment Paul Crick said the local authority was already clear about what it did not want.
“Our main preference is against option A, another crossing at Dartford, because this will do nothing for network resilience at a location already vulnerable to major incidents and it offers nowhere near the same opportunities for economic growth,” he said.
“The other two corridors offer far better strategic routes for Kent’s ports,” he said.
A new major road crossing of the Thames linking Dover to the Midlands and the North is a central part of Kent’s transport and economic development plans. The county has already undertaken its own studies including financial modelling of possible routes and assessment of the three corridors being considered by DfT.
Around 90% of the UK’s roll-on roll-off freight traffic goes through Dover. According to Crick, a new Lower Thames Crossing at a significant distance from Dartford presents the best option because it would cut out the pinch point of the existing bridge and tunnel at Dartford and a large section of the M25 for traffic heading for Kent’s ports.
“We saw over the recent Christmas holiday period what can happen when all traffic is fed through one critical route,” he said.
“Closure of just one of the Dartford tunnels resulted in traffic taking up to four hours to get through. The options being considered are corridors, not exact routes for a new motorway link, but it is preferable to miss out as much of the M25 as possible in linking Dover to the M11, the Midlands and the North,” said Crick.
Officially, Kent County Council has not yet ruled out any particular route option, or expressed support for any particular option.
Cabinet member Bryan Sweetland said to suggest otherwise was “completely misleading”. He has confirmed that Kent:
- Is not beholden to any particular route option for an additional Thames crossing and the final decision on the definitive route rests with the Government. However, we will be working with the Department for Transport and Essex County Council to ensure that whatever route option is eventually chosen, it will act as a catalyst for economic growth, bringing new jobs to the Thames Gateway. Importantly though, any new route option must cause the least amount of environmental damage to our precious Kent countryside.
- Expects the DfT to start a public consultation during the summer months (2013)
- Will respond as a consultee after a full debate at the council
- Supports the need for a additional Thames Crossing
- Will debate the issue fully during the consultation period