Exhaust fumes from traffic using the new tunnels will be captured, filtered, and directed away from built-up areas, leading to a significant reduction in pollution in the area.
The decision follows increasing complaints from drivers and residents concerned about the frequent problems which result in gridlock on the M25 and throughout Dartford. A recent petition signed by thousands of angry drivers and residents, calling on the government to hold a public enquiry, is understood to have prompted the Department for Transport to instruct Highways England to focus on congestion relief at Dartford, rather than on unlocking land for development.
A spokesman for Highways England said: “We have listened to the concerns of drivers and the residents of Dartford, who are rightly fed up with having to endure unacceptable levels of congestion and pollution on a daily basis. We had hoped that the removal of the toll booths would reduce hold-ups, but clearly this has not happened northbound, where traffic through the 50 year old tunnels still has to be halted frequently to let large lorries and hazardous loads go through.”
“In future, all through traffic using the M25 will completely bypass the A282 and the existing crossing without any restrictions, unseen and unheard by the people of Dartford and Thurrock. This will include HGVs travelling to and from the Channel Ports via the M20” said the spokesman.
Casey Seaman, who regularly commutes from his home in New Barn, said: “At last we have a solution that will address the problems and allow me to get to meetings on time. A crossing east of Gravesend would not solve the problems at Dartford and would not help the M25 at all.”
Laurie Zorlova, a shopkeeper from Dartford, said: “This is excellent news, but not before time. My business has seen customers driven away because of the gridlock we suffer in Dartford, and unless something is done quickly we will be forced to close.”
Work on the new £6.6bn tunnels is expected to start within 2 years and could be completed as early as 2022. Because the majority of the work will be carried out underground, it is expected that there will be minimal disruption to traffic using the existing crossing, and no demolition of property.
Highways England forecasts that the new crossing east of Gravesend will generate nearly 60,000 extra journeys a day. Traffic at Dartford will only be reduced to 138,000 vehicles a day, just 2,000 less than it currently struggles to cope with, but still 3,000 more than it’s designed to carry.
M25 traffic will continue to thunder through the existing Dartford corridor, generating more and more pollution as traffic is forecast to increase to over 150,000 vehicles a day within 10 years.
And all this traffic through Dartford would still have to use the same old tunnels, with the same old height and cargo restrictions, resulting in continuing stoppages, incidents, and gridlock.
Option A14 – A Better Solution for Dartford