Lower Thames Crossing supplementary consultation - Project updates

Closes 25 Mar 2020

Opened 29 Jan 2020

Overview

Project updates

From 10 October to 20 December 2018, Highways England carried out our most comprehensive consultation, receiving nearly 29,000 responses from individuals and stakeholders. After carefully considering the issues raised in these responses, and carrying out further design development, we have refined our proposals and are now consulting on our proposed changes to the Lower Thames Crossing.

What is the Lower Thames Crossing?

The Lower Thames Crossing is a proposed new road connecting Kent, Thurrock and Essex through a tunnel beneath the River Thames. It would provide much-needed new road capacity across the river east of London and deliver the other scheme objectives set out in the consultation materials.

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On the south side of the River Thames, the new road would link to the A2 and M2 in Kent. On the north side, it would link to the A13 in Thurrock and the M25 in Havering.

The tunnel crossing is located to the east of Gravesend on the south of the River Thames and to the west of East Tilbury on the north side.

The Lower Thames Crossing proposals will include:

  • approximately 14.3 miles (23km) of new roads connecting the tunnel to the existing road network
  • three lanes in both directions, apart from the southbound connection between the M25 and A13, where it would be two lanes, and around junctions
  • technology providing lane control and variable speed limits up to 70mph
  • upgrades to the M25, A2 and A13 where it connects to those roads
  • new structures and changes to existing ones including bridges, viaducts and utilities such as electricity pylons
  • two 2.6 mile (4.3km) tunnels crossing beneath the river, one for southbound traffic, one for northbound traffic
  • a free-flow charging system, where drivers do not need to stop but pay remotely, similar to that at the Dartford Crossing
  • traffic regulation measures that include prohibiting use by pedestrians, low-powered motorcycles, cyclists, horse riders and agricultural vehicles
  • provision of environment mitigation and replacement of open space and common land

Aims of the Lower Thames Crossing

We worked with the Department for Transport (DfT) to agree the following objectives that we want the Lower Thames Crossing to achieve:

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  • to support sustainable local development and regional economic growth in the medium to long term
  • to be affordable to government and users
  • to achieve value for money
  • to minimise adverse impacts on health and the environment
  • to relieve the congested Dartford Crossing and approach roads, and improve their performance by providing free-flowing, north-south capacity
  • to improve resilience of the Thames crossings and the major road network
  • to improve safety

As well as following the scheme objectives, we are obliged to develop the Lower Thames Crossing so it meets the standards outlined by the National Policy Statement for National Networks, which sets out government policies for nationally significant infrastructure road projects for England.

Why have we made changes to the project?

The changes described in detail in this guide were informed by our consideration of the issues raised through the nearly 29,000 responses submitted to our statutory consultation, as well as detailed technical assessments and other considerations. They have been designed to improve the Lower Thames Crossing, while being practicable and fair.

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We have tried to be sensitive to the needs of interested parties, especially those living in the vicinity of the project, while always being aware that we must deliver a viable scheme that satisfies national policy and the scheme objectives agreed with the DfT.

Outside of the proposals highlighted in this guide and our associated consultation material, we are not currently considering further changes to the elements of the project presented during statutory consultation. We consider the justifications we made for these elements at that time to still be valid.

As part of our DCO application, we will submit a Consultation Report, which will explain how we considered the issues raised during statutory consultation and this supplementary consultation. This report will highlight those elements of the project that we have changed as a result of the feedback received during consultation and those that have stayed the same.

This supplementary consultation is the latest stage in the planning process and is an opportunity for you to have your say on the proposals outlined in this guide and associated consultation material. Please see section 11 for information about how you can give your feedback on the proposed changes. If you would like to comment on areas of the project that are not covered by a specific question on our supplementary consultation response form, please use question 8 ‘Other comments’.

Summary of our updated proposals

The information we are presenting during this supplementary consultation includes changes to what was outlined during our statutory consultation in 2018, and updates to the project where further information has become available. The main updates are highlighted below.

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Key changes to our proposals:

  • M2/A2, including the junction with the Lower Thames Crossing: Following feedback from our statutory consultation, we have looked at junction configuration. We have provided more direct connectivity between Gravesend and the M2/A2 eastbound, and redesigned the Gravesend East junction and link roads to improve journey times.
  • Southern tunnel entrance: We have moved the entrance 350 metres to the south to reduce the impact on the Thames Estuary and Marshes Ramsar site. An informal public space, Chalk Park, would be created around the southern tunnel entrance to improve local biodiversity and ecological connectivity.
  • Removal of the rest and service area and Tilbury junction: After further investigation and consideration of the feedback from statutory consultation and environmental considerations, we have decided not to progress with the rest and service area or the maintenance depot. Resources will be provided from other local maintenance depots to serve LTC. This means the junction at Tilbury is no longer required.
  • Route between Tilbury and A13 junction: We have moved the route approximately 60 metres north-east to avoid the need for major overhead cable diversion works.
  • A13/A1089 junction: We have redesigned some slip roads at the junction between the Lower Thames Crossing, A13, A1089 and A1013 to reduce the visual impact, move roads away from properties, and improve safety and connectivity at the junctions.
  • Number of lanes: We have removed one lane southbound between the M25 and A13/A1089 junction to reduce the route’s impact, while still providing sufficient vehicle capacity.
  • Route through the Mardyke: We have changed the structures over the Mardyke River, Golden Bridge Sewer and the Orsett Fen Sewer to reduce the visual impact and the volume of flood compensation needed. The route has moved approximately 200 metres south-west to reduce the work required to move an existing gas main. It also reduces the impact on a nearby landfill site.
  • M25 junction: We have redesigned the southbound link from the M25 to the Lower Thames Crossing to avoid demolition and reconstruction of the existing Ockendon Road bridge over the M25.
  • M25 junction 29: We have changed the layout of junction 29 to reduce the amount of overhead cable diversion works. See section 3 for more details on these proposed changes.

Key changes to our proposals - continued

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Property and landowners: We have revised the development boundary as a result of the design changes, proposed utility diversions and additional land required for environmental mitigation. See section 4 for further information on the development boundary.

Facilities for walking, cycling and horse riding: We have developed a detailed set of proposals for maintaining, improving and upgrading the walking, cycling and horse-riding network in the vicinity of the project. See section 5 for more details.

Environmental impact: As a result of our proposed design changes to the route, revised development boundary and utility diversions, we have set out our current understanding of how these affect the information that was presented in our 2018 Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR). Further details are set out in section 6 and our Environmental Impacts Update.

Building the Lower Thames Crossing: We have progressed our plans for how we will build the scheme, and further details can be found in section 7.

Utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewers and communications): We have progressed our plans to divert utilities in a way that is necessary to build the Lower Thames Crossing safely, protect existing supplies and enable future maintenance. See section 8 for further details.

Using the Lower Thames Crossing: We have updated elements of our traffic model as part of our ongoing work to prepare for our DCO application, details of which can be found in section 9.

Other updates to the Lower Thames Crossing:
As well as the changes summarised above and presented in detail in this guide, we have also made progress in the following areas:

Funding
Following the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement in October 2018 to end the use of private finance, the project is now being developed as a fully publicly-funded scheme. Now the project is not being delivered through a single private finance supplier, which could have brought commercial constraints, we are able to revise our procurement strategy. This includes improving the packaging of works, which can be divided into southern and northern packages, each with different challenges and required skills.

As the construction and maintenance of the approach roads and the junctions are no longer combined, the maintenance can be absorbed into Highways England’s existing strategy for the Strategic Road Network in the South East. As a result, there is no need for a dedicated maintenance depot along the Lower Thames Crossing route.

Equal charging at Dartford and the Lower Thames Crossing

Our proposal at statutory consultation was to seek flexibility for a range of charging scenarios. In recent months, we have reviewed a number of charging options to fully inform our proposals ahead of our DCO submission.

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The most recent modelling and assessments have shown that making the charge for the Lower Thames Crossing the same as the Dartford Crossing would be the most beneficial option.

Our DCO application will therefore include an equal charging scenario for the following reasons:

  • It simplifies decision making for the driver as the choice of crossing will be informed by the easiest route.
  • It relieves congestion at the Dartford Crossing while balancing use of the Lower Thames Crossing.
  • It minimises operational complexity, enabling the combined operation of the Dartford Crossing and Lower Thames Crossing charging schemes.

Local Residents Discount Scheme
Our continued engagement with stakeholders and the feedback we received during statutory consultation shows there is a high expectation that the Lower Thames Crossing project will include a local residents’ discount scheme (LRDS). Its our intention that a local resident discount scheme shall apply to residents of both Thurrock and Gravesham, and will be implemented on a similar basis, with the same level as applies to Dartford.

To find out more about the Dart Charge LRDS, visit www.gov.uk/pay-dartford-crossing-charge/charges-fines

In our 2018 statutory consultation there were…

60
events

14,868
event attendees

2,500,000
emails sent

132
Tweets sent by @lowerthames

 

300,000
people reached via Twitter

212,000
visitors to our consultation website

2,000,000
views of our consultation web pages

 

Continue to the next section: Section 3: Changes to the route - Overview of design changes

 

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