It is now 8 months since the consultation closed, and this long delay suggests that the Government is looking very closely at all the options, and not taking Highways England’s recommendation at face value.
Questions have been raised about the massive increase in the estimated cost of an extra bridge at Dartford (up from £1.2bn in 2013 to £3.5bn in 2016) and the doubling of the presumed economic benefits that have been attributed to a crossing east of Gravesend.
“When we met the Secretary of State for Transport earlier this year, he was clearly surprised that the option of a crossing at Dartford had not been included in the consultation,” said Bob Lane, spokesman for the Lower Thames Crossing Association. “Perhaps this, together with the meagre reduction in traffic at Dartford that a new crossing east of Gravesend would offer, means that the Government is studying all the options more closely” said Bob.
The options available are:
- Option A, a northbound bridge at Dartford, similar to the existing southbound bridge. At £3.5bn, this would be the cheapest option, and would overcome problems caused by the existing tunnels.
- Option C, a completely new crossing east of Gravesend. At £5bn, this would provide an alternate route for traffic heading to and from Dover, but would not provide an alternative route for the M25.
- Option A14, the so-called ‘long tunnel’ option from south of junction 2 to north of junction 30. This £6bn option would finally complete the M25 and remove through traffic from Dartford and the existing crossing.
A Government decision is expected later this year or early in 2017.