Why the Lower Thames Crossing is so important

Closed 20 Dec 2018

Opened 10 Oct 2018


The Lower Thames Crossing is part of the biggest investment in the country’s road network for a generation, including £15 billion that is being invested in motorways and major A-roads between 2015 and 2020. A further multibillion pound investment programme will be announced in autumn 2018, covering the period 2020-2025.

A boost to the economy

Good transport connections are vital for economic growth. The areas of Kent, Thurrock and Essex, which the Lower Thames Crossing will serve are already home to key economic hubs, vital ports and thriving neighbourhoods. The crossing will provide new connections between all of these and ensure better journeys, fewer delays and give more certainty on how long journeys will take.

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The crossing will boost local, regional and national economies, and form an essential part of the UK’s transport infrastructure, improving connections across the country.

The region’s ports of Dover, Felixstowe, London Thamesport, Port of Tilbury and London Gateway will benefit from the increased capacity and enhanced reliability in journeys that the crossing will provide.

It will give businesses large and small the confidence to invest and grow, and bring them closer to existing and potential customers, employees and markets.

The crossing will give businesses large and small the confidence to invest and grow, bringing them closer to existing and potential customers and markets

Easing our heavily congested roads

Motorists trying to cross the Thames face a daily challenge. Every day, on every journey, roads and motorways on both sides of the River Thames are under huge pressure.

As those who regularly use the Dartford Crossing know, it is already far too congested far too often, and unless we do something now to provide more road capacity across the Thames, the situation is only going to get worse.

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The Lower Thames Crossing will make the region’s road network more resilient. The Dartford Crossing is the only road spanning the Thames east of London between Kent, Thurrock and Essex, and for many motorists it is the only viable route across the river. It is the busiest river road crossing in the UK, carrying millions of tonnes of freight from the Channel ports, vehicles from the M25 as well as local traffic.

The Dartford Crossing was designed for 135,000 vehicles a day, yet carried more than 180,000 on some days in 2017. This is one reason why there are often long delays, particularly at peak times, and why roads and motorways on both sides of the crossing also experience frequent problems.

Did you know? More than 27 million drivers are forecast to use the Lower Thames Crossing in its first year.

The Dartford Crossing regularly closes as a result of vehicle collisions, high winds and other incidents such as oversized lorries in the tunnels. The new crossing will provide an alternative route when Dartford is fully or partially closed.

The Lower Thames Crossing will increase capacity across the Thames east of London by more than 90%

Quicker journeys

The Lower Thames Crossing will benefit the Lower Thames area around Kent, Thurrock and Essex. It will:

  • improve journey times along parts of the A127 and M20
  • cut congestion on approach roads to the Dartford Crossing (including parts of the M25, A13 and A2)
  • increase capacity across the Thames from four lanes in each direction currently (at Dartford) to seven lanes each way (Dartford plus the Lower Thames Crossing)
  • allow nearly double the amount of traffic to cross the Thames

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In its first year, more than 27 million drivers are forecast to use the Lower Thames Crossing (around 75,000 vehicles a day). This will relieve congestion at Dartford by reducing the number of vehicles using the crossing by 22%, immediately improving journey times, resilience and reliability.

Designing the Lower Thames Crossing to the latest safety standards means HGVs carrying hazardous materials, such as fuel or chemicals, will be able to use it safely and unescorted. This is in stark contrast to today where escorted lorry convoys at Dartford cause significant delays for all traffic.

More than 2,000 HGVs have to be escorted every month at Dartford, with convoys of restricted vehicles on average leaving every 15 minutes. Each time an HGV is escorted, a lane is closed for around 90 seconds – that adds up to 5-7 minutes of closures each hour, cutting road capacity on the crossing by 8-12%. Even removing escorted vehicles from general traffic lanes can lead to disruptions.

The Lower Thames Crossing is expected to carry nearly 5 million HGVs in the first year of opening (13,000 a day), while HGV traffic using the Dartford Crossing will be reduced, improving journey reliability for all road users.

With the Lower Thames Crossing, an electrician from Basildon heading to a customer in Rochester could save 30 minutes on a round trip

Creating a better future

The crossing will be designed and built for the future, and will unlock opportunities for regional and national economic growth.

As part of their development plans, local authorities in Kent and Essex have committed to building tens of thousands of new homes in the coming years. The Lower Thames Crossing will support this by strengthening and connecting local communities and improving access to jobs, housing, leisure and retail facilities on both sides of the river.

We want to encourage more young people to consider a STEM career

Employment and education

The Lower Thames Crossing will provide benefits for local communities and the economy for generations to come. New training and job opportunities created during construction will boost both the local and regional economies.

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As with any large construction project, the Lower Thames Crossing provides an ideal opportunity to highlight to local children and young people the variety of careers available to those with a background in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

There is currently a national shortage of people with a good knowledge of these subjects and we are talking to primary and secondary schools to establish a programme that would encourage more pupils to consider STEM careers.

Already the Lower Thames Crossing team includes dozens of volunteer STEM ambassadors who are committed to supporting our local initiatives. Anyone working on the project can volunteer to be a STEM ambassador and be given training to work with local schools and offer career mentoring, training and industry insights to young people in the region.

As well as talking to local schools, we are working with colleges and universities in the region. They are excited about the opportunities presented by the project and what this might mean to them and their students.

Organisations such as the Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as local businesses and local authorities are helping us shape the training we will offer. This will mean that local people have the skills needed to support development in the area for years to come.

Better connections across the river will mean more job opportunities for those in the region

We will actively look for apprentices from local schools and colleges, and work with our supply chain to develop a longterm apprenticeship programme. Irrespective of where the apprentices come from they will be trained in skills that open up long-term, sustainable job opportunities.

Did you know? We will support veterans and women returners through our existing employment programmes, and help other, often under-represented, groups back into work.

Supporting local growth

Good connections across the region and throughout the country are essential for business growth. We have spoken with many representatives from businesses large and small who have told us that their main concern is transport infrastructure.

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A Federation of Small Business (FSB) survey in June 2018 found almost half (49%) of small business owners think the new infrastructure project would give them better opportunities to reach new customers. More than a third (39%) say it would improve their access to transport hubs, and 28.7% think new markets would be more accessible after the crossing is built.

Of those who took part in the survey, carried out by FSB in Kent, London and Essex, 63% of SMEs said they found traffic congestion a major challenge to their business, and 62% of those surveyed want the government to focus on investment.

Businesses in Kent, Thurrock and Essex rely on the area’s road network, with staff, customers and their supply chain all dependent on it. They also need to be able to deliver their goods on time – and to do that they need reliable journeys.

Better connections across the river mean more job opportunities for those living in the region, and a greater pool of potential employees. They also boost the market for local businesses.

Once the Lower Thames Crossing opens, more companies will be able to pursue other markets that they couldn’t before because of unreliable journey times across the Thames.

Have you say

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Continue to the next section: Section 5: The route - Design changes

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