In 2016, Highways England consulted on a new Lower Thames Crossing and received more than 47,000 responses, indicating the level of interest in the project.
Subsequently, the Secretary of State announced that the preferred route is to be a tunnel beneath the River Thames, between Gravesend and Tilbury. The tunnel will be supported by new infrastructure linking to the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 in the north and to the A2 east of Gravesend in the south.
The purpose of the new route is to ease frequent logjams and increased traffic at the Dartford Crossing - in the tunnel, carrying traffic from Kent into Essex, and on the QEII Bridge for traffic en route to the south.
The original crossing opened in November 1963 and was a single carriageway tunnel and cost sixpence (6d) to cross.
The crossing was popular and, with demand rising, a second tunnel was planned, approved and work
commenced in 1971. However, due to a number of delays including a public enquiry, it didn't open until 1980 when both tunnels provided a dual carriageway between Kent and Essex.
During the 1980s the completion of the M25 had added to an existing and projected level of traffic using the tunnels and a third crossing was proposed and approved and eventually the QEII Bridge opened in October 1991.
And still the traffic increased.
It is anticipated that the new Lower Thames Crossing will, according to Chris Taylor
Director of Complex Infrastructure at Highways England, "...unlock billions of pounds worth of economic benefit and create thousands of jobs.
The estimated cost for construction is between £4.4 and £6.2 billion and a start date is yet to be agreed – but it will offer an alternative route "....providing more than 70%
additional road capacity....", "....improved journeys, open up new connections and (strengthen) network reliability...". (http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/lower-thames-crossing/)
"The decision on the preferred route marks a significant step forward in the scheme's development. We will now move forward with the design and assessment, which includes more detailed environmental surveys, air quality and noise impact assessments and traffic modelling before consulting you again on a more detailed scheme."
No doubt there will be objections and delays but it seems that sometime in the foreseeable future we may be experiencing reduced congestion in and around the Gravesend to Dartford area – which is something to look forward to.
To keep in touch with the progress of the project visit the dedicated website at www.lower-thames-crossing.co.uk.