A 3.2 km tunnel running underneath the Thames has been put forward as the preferred route for a £6bn river crossing linking Kent and Essex.
The Lower Thames Crossing will run from Gravesham on the south side of the river to Tilbury on the north and will be the first Thames crossing to be built since Dartford’s Queen Elizabeth II bridge was completed in 1991.
The location was chosen ahead of an alternative site near the existing Dartford Crossing after Highways England concluded nearly three years of work assessing both options.
Lower Thames Crossing Map proposed route Jan 16
The proposed scheme would run from the end of the M2, crossing the river just east of Gravesend and Tilbury and joining the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.
Capital costs for the project are estimated to be between £4.3bn and £6bn, with the tunnel expected to be operational by 2025.
Highways England launched an eight-week consultation for the project yesterday, which will run until 24 March.
Explaining the decision, Highways England senior project manager Martin Potts said it had been largely based on the economic benefits the proposed crossing would have on the surrounding area.
He said: “Our assessments have shown that Location C provides double the economic benefits of Location A as well as a clear alternative route to the Dartford Crossing, reducing congestion and improving the resilience of the road network. And by choosing a tunnel rather than a bridge, we can minimise the effects of the new road on the environment.
“Deciding where the new crossing should go is a vitally important decision, and we’ve been working hard to identify solutions that strike the best balance between improving journeys, getting value for money and managing environmental impact.”
Roads minister Andrew Jones said: “The government is committed to delivering a Lower Thames Crossing which will increase capacity and provide better, faster journeys across the Thames.
“Once complete it could add over £7bn to the economy by increasing investment and business opportunities, and create over 5,000 new jobs nationally.”