More than 47,000 people have taken part in a consultation for a new Lower Thames Crossing, making it the largest ever public consultation for a UK road project, according to Highways England.
The consultation, which closed two months ago, invited views on proposed routes for a road crossing below the Thames, which would be the first new road crossing for the river east of London for 25 years.
Highways England said that nearly 30,000 participants had replied online, a further 3,700 completed a paper questionnaire and around 13,000 sent in a letter or an email in response to the consultation. More than 500 local government and industry groups also responded to the consultation.
The body said that in total 47,034 responses had been received and that they were now being analysed before a final decision on a preferred route is made by the government which is expected later this year.
“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 the public’s response has exceeded our expectations,” said Highways England consultation manager Martin Potts.
“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.”
Highways England said that the new road could be open by 2025 and would release new areas for economic growth, relieve congestion at the existing Dartford Crossing and improve the resilience of the road network by providing a new alternative link across the Thames.
In 2014, following a public consultation led by the Department for Transport (DfT), 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.
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.
Subject to the necessary funding and planning approvals, the new crossing would 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 open by 2027.