Will The Lower Thames Tunnel Reduce Road Freight Times?

Plans To Reduce Heavily Congested Dartford Crossing

The Lower Thames Tunnel statutory consultation is underway. The project is designed to filter traffic away from the problematic Dartford Crossing.

The Dartford Crossing has long been dreaded by drivers who need to cross from Essex to Kent or vice versa. The crossing is designed to allow 135,000 vehicles to travel every day, however, the reality is that it’s already overloaded and by 2025, it’s expected to be coping with 160,000 road users – operating at 120% capacity. This is why a new Lower Thames Tunnel is in the works, with the consultation period now open until December 20th.

Why Is A New Tunnel Required?

One of the problems with the current Dartford Crossing is that the recent scrapping of toll booths hasn’t been as effective, if at all, as road users were promised. Highways England invested £62 million into replacing the stop-and-pay system with ANPR technology, in a move that was designed to radically reduce the amount of time spent on the crossing. Highways England declare that the project has been a success, reducing the average northbound journey by three and a half minutes, and seven and a half minutes if you’re heading south. But motorists and local businesses paint a very different picture, with many complaining about the reduction of lanes in both directions causing absolute gridlock for many vehicles.

Lower Thames Tunnel Offers A Solution

By building another crossing away from the current Dartford to Thurrock route, it is thought that motorists will have an additional option to choose from and both crossings should ideally be quieter, making journey times quicker and less stressful.

The new route is proposed to connect Kent, Thurrock and Essex via a tunnel constructed beneath the River Thames. In Kent, it will also be linked to the A2 and M2 roads, whilst on the north side, it will connect with the A13 and J13 of the M25 in Havering.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is in favour of the proposed new route, and explains “The logistics industry is a lifeblood of the UK economy and needs an efficient and effective road network to continue stocking Britain’s factories, retail outlets, schools, hospitals and homes with the raw materials and goods they need to continue operating efficiently.”

Extra Costs For Road Users

Of course, logistics companies are only too aware that such a route is likely to be costly, as much like the Dartford Crossing, there are already plans to incorporate an automatic e-charging system, similar to that of the Dart Charge. Drivers wouldn’t need to stop and pay, but instead set up an online account – you would then pre-pay for your crossing in advance, or up to midnight the day after you’ve used the tunnel.

Pressing For Completion

Road freight companies are ultimately positive about the proposed Lower Thames Tunnel. It is expected that the new route would accommodate 27 million vehicles, of which 4.5 million are predicted to be heavy goods vehicles. This would ease congestion on the Dartford Crossing by approximately 22%, so if these figures turn out to be accurate, then clearly the construction is a positive move for everyone, and especially for the logistics sector who would enjoy quicker journey times. If you’d like to have your say in this project, then be sure to fill out the statutory consultation form by December 20th.

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