Using the Lower Thames Crossing

Closed 20 Dec 2018

Opened 10 Oct 2018


Built for tomorrow, fit for the future

Transport is going through huge changes, spurred on by new technologies such as electric and driverless vehicles. For example, according to Department for Transport research, 60% of car and van sales will be electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030. To meet this demand, the number of charging points in the UK needs to rise to more than 27,000 by 2030. There are currently around 17,000 charging points.

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We are designing the road to consider the impact of these changes, both in terms of the infrastructure we build, and how this will affect drivers’ behaviour.

It is important we design for the future to avoid unnecessary upgrades with added cost and disruption. For example, the way people use electric vehicles may be different to how they use petrol or diesel vehicles, particularly in terms of refuelling or recharging. As a result, if we do build a rest and service area, we would make sure there will be enough parking bays with electric charging points.

We will continue to explore how we can integrate new and emerging technologies into the project.

We are designing the road for a world in which there will be more electric or plugin hybrid vehicles

Shorter journey times

The Lower Thames Crossing will provide more reliable journeys across the river, and improve connections to the busy ports in South East England. This helps to spread the load of HGV traffic across the river.

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We use traffic modelling to predict how many vehicles will be using each part of the network and the time it will take people to complete their journey, both with and without the crossing. Traffic models are highly sophisticated and take into account information such as population, fuel pricing and changes to income. They also consider other changes to the network, including the Silvertown Tunnel in east London and upgrades on the M25.

In its first year of operation, more than 27 million vehicles are forecast to use the Lower Thames Crossing. This will relieve congestion at Dartford by reducing the number of vehicles there by 22 per cent.

Have your say

To comment on traffic predictions, answer question 9 in the response form.

With three lanes in each direction, the new crossing will have enough capacity to allow fast, reliable journey times well into the future. By 2041 – the year our traffic modelling runs to – we predict the new route will carry more than 32 million vehicles a year (around 90,000 vehicles a day).

The new crossing will reduce journey times across the Thames. For example, when the road opens, morning peak time journeys over the Dartford Crossing between M25 junctions 1b and 31 will be cut from nine minutes on average to just five minutes.

Find out more

To find out more about how these predictions are made, and more detail about journey times, see the Traffic Forecast Non-Technical Summary and Traffic Forecasting Report.

With the Lower Thames Crossing, a daily commuter travelling from Maidstone to Basildon could save an average of 130 minutes each week

Traffic predictions

These maps show a decrease in traffic in blue and increases in traffic in yellow to red in the year of opening. Overall, the impact on traffic is similar during the morning, evening and inter-peak periods, with the changes more pronounced, and covering a wider area, during the morning and evening peaks.

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On some roads, such as the A2 west of its junction with the new crossing, the A13 west of its junction with the new crossing, the Dartford Crossing and theM25 in Thurrock, the number of vehicles using these routes will fall when the new crossing opens.

Roads on the approach to the new crossing, including the M2, A229, the A13 east of its junction with the new crossing, the A2 east of Gravesend and some sections of the M25, will experience an increase in traffic levels as travel across the River Thames becomes easier and more reliable. (Click on an arrow below the map to view all the maps)

Change in traffic flow – 7am to 8am
Change in traffic flow – 5pm to 6pm


One of the Lower Thames Crossing’s targets is that no-one should be killed or seriously injured on the new route by 2041.

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Road safety

Working with the emergency services, we are designing a project with safety as a priority. We will use the latest technology to make it one of the safest motorways in the country. For example, monitoring equipment will work with highly visible messaging to relay the most up-to-date traffic information. Clear motorway messaging can also help to reduce confusion at junctions.

We are designing a project with safety as a priority

Speed limits will vary along the route to make sure vehicles travel at a speed that is best suited to the current road conditions. We will monitor traffic flow 24/7 via a regional control centre.

Providing an alternative route for HGVs away from the Dartford Crossing, and for lorries carrying dangerous goods to pass through, the new tunnel will also significantly improve safety and reduce incidents

Safety features in the tunnel

Inside the tunnel, safety features will include monitoring equipment to detect broken-down vehicles, onsite vehicle recovery, and access routes at both entrances for the emergency services. The tunnel will incorporate fire and safety technology as illustrated on theimage below. (Click on the image below to see safety features)

Find out more

To find out more about safety, see Approach to Design, Construction and Operation.

Connecting with other roads

We are investigating how the new crossing will impact both the nearby local roads as well as the wider regional road network. We are developing a detailed understanding of where there will be a reduction in traffic, and also where increases are predicted.

We will work with the relevant local highway authorities to identify the locations where further improvements may be needed. These can then be considered as part of both current and future road investment programmes.

Operations and maintenance

The roads will have a maximum speed of 70mph. A control centre will use live traffic information from cameras along the route to alter and monitor these speeds as needed. Signs on the road and in the tunnel will let drivers know what the current speed limit is, and provide further information in the event of an emergency.

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All standard-height vehicles that use the motorway will be able to use the tunnel, including coaches and HGVs.

We expect to build a maintenance depot next to a proposed rest and service area. If we do, it would house de-icing equipment for the road and tunnel, maintenance vehicles and office facilities.

Almost half of small business owners think the crossing would give them better opportunities to reach new customers

Charges for using the crossing

Our proposal is to charge users of the tunnel with a free-flowing e-charging system, similar to the Dart Charge at the Dartford Crossing where drivers do not need to stop but pay remotely.

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If the Development Consent Order is granted, it would be some time before the crossing opens, so we plan to ask for flexibility over the design of the charging scheme to help meet our objectives, including optimised traffic management. This means that the charging regime for the Lower Thames Crossing may be different from the one at the Dartford Crossing.

Charging will help us manage traffic demand

Have your say

To comment on our approach to charging, answer question 10 in the response form.

Our current proposal is to ask for charging flexibility in the following areas:

  • charge amounts
  • charged and non-charged hours
  • application of peak charges
  • vehicle classifications
  • emissions-based charging
  • accounts, discounts and exemptions
  • payment requirements and channels

Find out more

To find out more about our plans for charging, see Approach to Design, Construction and Operation.

We will confirm our charging proposals in our DCO application and will continue to engage with our stakeholders over the details of the scheme up to the point where the new crossing opens.

At this stage, to help shape our proposals, we are interested to hear your views on our proposal to seek flexibility over the setting of the new Lower Thames Crossing charging scheme.

To help you, we have summarised some of the existing characteristics of the Dart Charge scheme on the right. You can download a leaflet on the scheme from the Dart Charge website at and search for Dart Charge key facts.

About the Dart Charge scheme:

  • Charges apply from 6am until 10pm
  • No charge for journeys made outside of 6am and 10pm
  • Charges to apply daily, including weekends and bank holidays
  • Discounts are available to drivers with an account with us
  • Selected vehicle classes and user groups to be exempt from charges

Continue to the next section: Section 9: Consultation and development consent

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