It’s vital to get the design, construction and operation of the Lower Thames Crossing right to maximise its benefits and minimise its impacts.
The Lower Thames Crossing has been classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, which means it will be developed in phases:
We will use construction techniques that minimise disruption. This includes the bored tunnel method, which will minimise impacts on the riverside marshes and riverbed, and offsite construction, which enables faster progress and use of the river for transporting materials.
The journey to the Lower Thames Crossing
A Department for Transport (DfT) study
Owing to increasing demand at the Dartford Crossing, the DfT looks at options for an additional crossing at five potential locations (A, B, C, D and E). The two furthest east (D and E) are ruled out as they are too far from the existing crossing. Rail is also ruled out.Read more
Named priority infrastructure project
The government recognises the need for a new crossing by naming it a top 40 priority project in its National Infrastructure Plan.Read more
DfT study into 3 options
The DfT commissioned a study to assess the 3 remaining location options.
DfT public consultation
The DfT carries out a public consultation to ask for views on the location of the proposed crossing.Read more
Response to 2013 consultation published
The response to the consultation confirms the need for a new crossing between Kent, Thurrock and Essex. Option B is ruled out; the remaining two locations (A and C) are investigated further.Read more
DfT asks Highways England to assess the economic, traffic, environmental and community impacts for locations A and C. Location C is recommended as it offers far greater economic benefits and congestion relief.Read more
A public consultation asks for feedback on proposals at location C, including three routes north of the river in Thurrock and Essex, and two south of the river in Kent.
Preferred Route Announcement
The Secretary of State for Transport announces the preferred route, a tunnel under the River Thames east of Gravesend and Tilbury (location C, route three with the Western Southern Link).Read more
Highways England holds a second public consultation.Have your say
Highways England holds a supplementary consultation.Have your say
Pre-examination of DCO application
You can register with the Planning Inspectorate as an interested party and make formal representations about the project. You will then be kept informed of progress and opportunities to be involved. The Planning Inspectorate will then examine our application.
Submission of DCO application
Subject to the outcome of the consultation, we will make our submission to the Planning Inspectorate, which will include feedback from the consultation. This is called the DCO application.Learn more
The Planning Inspectorate has 28 days to decide if the application meets the required standards to proceed, including whether our consultation has been adequate.
The Planning Inspectorate will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport within three months of the end of the examination period.
The Secretary of State then has three months to issue a decision. This will be followed by a public announcement.
If approved, construction could begin soon after.
Opening – 2027/2028*
The Lower Thames Crossing opens to traffic.
* We are using a date range of 2027 to 2028 to account for the natural uncertainty in developing a project of this size and scale. As we gather more information from consultation, our ground investigations and engagement with the supply chain, we will gain more certainty.
Designing the crossing
The design for the Lower Thames Crossing aims to find the right balance between providing value for money, moving traffic effectively, and reducing the impact on local communities and the environment.
We have liaised closely with residents, community groups, businesses, local authorities and regulators over the past few years to develop our designs.
We have also been working with external agencies that are experts in this field, including the Design Council, to make sure our approach to design has been guided by the relevant standards and best practice.
Since presenting our detailed proposals in our 2018 statutory consultation, we have made considerable progress in developing the Lower Thames Crossing project. We have been refining the design, updating our traffic model and carrying out extensive environmental and geotechnical surveys, all while continuing to engage with our stakeholders.
Following our 2020 supplementary consultation, we will consider the additional feedback received before finalising our design, and our environmental and traffic assessments.
Also during this stage, the Planning Inspectorate will appoint a panel of inspectors to serve as the examining authority, and a first meeting will be held to discuss procedural issues and the timetable for examination.
During the review, they will assess feedback from the public and stakeholders through written representations and public issue-specific or open hearings. Anyone who registered in the pre-examination phase can make a representation. This could include businesses, members of government, or individuals.
Government then has up to 3 months to make the final decision on whether to approve the DCO application and allow us to deliver the Lower Thames Crossing.
We plan to submit our Development Consent Order (DCO) application to the Planning Inspectorate in summer 2020. This will include feedback from the statutory and supplementary consultations.
The Planning Inspectorate will examine our application before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State. If it is approved, we will be awarded a DCO. This gives us permission to build.
The DCO process includes:
Building the crossing
- diverting public rights of way and utilities
- creating new habitats
- carrying out flood avoidance measures
- species relocation
- removing vegetation as necessary
- making any contaminated land safe
- completing detailed surveys about the land and surrounding area
We would build the new roads and tunnel in phases. This would be the most efficient way of working and would allow different elements of the project to be completed at the same time (see our timeline).
We would use construction techniques that minimise disruption. This would include the bored tunnel method, which reduces impacts on the riverside marshes and riverbed, and offsite construction, which enables faster progress and use of the river for transporting materials.
We would liaise closely with highways teams from the local authorities in each affected area to identify the best working times for each site, so these may vary.
As with any project of this scale, some work would have to take place at night and on weekends. For example, where possible, we would work on existing roads overnight to reduce daytime disruption to drivers.
During construction, we would give affected residents, businesses and road users advance notice of planned works and provide regular updates on project progress.
Operation of the tunnel boring machines would take place 24-hours-a-day throughout. This would be confined to the tunnel entrances and within the tunnel, and we would put in place noise and light mitigation.
The new road would connect the M2/A2 in Kent with the M25 south of junction 29 in Essex, crossing the A13 north of Chadwell St Mary. To connect with these existing roads, as well as the A1089, we would construct new junctions and would have to carry out some work on these roads as well. This would include improvements to the M2/A2 and M25.
Where material has to be transported from elsewhere, we would expect most of this to be supplied from nearby locations. We are also exploring opportunities for alternative modes of transport, such as river barges, to carry materials and waste to and from our construction sites.
Construction could affect local roads through temporary closures, diversions, traffic lights and/or lane restrictions. If the project receives consent and progresses to construction, we would provide advance notice of disruption, so people can look for alternative routes or travel arrangements.
At our five main sites, you would be likely to see temporary buildings and storage areas, including offices, space for equipment and materials, parking and staff welfare facilities.
Our secondary sites would be smaller and would typically include welfare facilities, materials and equipment.
Operating the crossing
We are designing a road that will be fit for the future.
At Dartford, charges apply from 6am to 10pm. Discounts are available to drivers with an account and selected vehicle classes and user groups are exempt.
As permission to build the Lower Thames Crossing could be granted a number of years before it opens, we plan to ask for the flexibility over the design of the charging scheme to help meet our objectives, including traffic management.