Lower Thames Crossing to be 'biggest road project since M25'
A new road linking Kent and Essex would almost double capacity across the River Thames, Highways England has said.
The route of the new road tunnel under the river would also almost halve the northbound crossing times at the Dartford Crossing, the agency said.
It is claimed the scheme will be the largest road upgrade project since the building of the M25.
Friends of the Earth said the crossing would lead to increased traffic and more air pollution.
Jenny Bates from the environmental group, said: "It's astonishing that in the week the UN is warning of the need for urgent action to avoid catastrophic climate change, the UK government is boasting about building more roads.
"This road development will only encourage more cars, vans, lorries and traffic, pumping more air pollution and climate-damaging emissions into our environment.
"Politicians need to take their foot off the accelerator in order to protect the planet."
The planned new 14.5 mile (23km) long three-lane dual carriageway would connect the M2 near Rochester and the M25 in Essex between North and South Ockendon and include a 2.4 mile (3.8km) tunnel between Gravesend and Tilbury.
Adam Holloway, the Conservative MP for Gravesham in Kent, previously described the Lower Thames Crossing as "a crazy idea" and "a disaster for the people of Dartford".
Opponents raised objections to the route saying it would cut through greenbelt land, and was too close to homes and schools.
A 10-week public consultation on the latest designs for the Lower Thames Crossing has opened.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "The Lower Thames Crossing will help transform journeys, create new business opportunities in Kent and Essex and unlock productivity across the UK."
A spokesman for Highways England said the new tunnel would be the longest road tunnel in the UK – and at over 50ft (15m) wide would become the third-largest bored tunnel in the world.
He said the updated designs "include significant changes to minimise the impact on local communities and the environment".
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Tim Jones, project director for the Lower Thames Crossing, said: "For too long the Dartford Crossing has been the only way to get across the Thames east of London. It is a vital gateway but carries more traffic than it was ever designed for and drivers there suffer from regular delays.
"The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious project of its kind ever in the UK and the biggest single road upgrade since the M25 was completed more than 30 years ago.
"It would almost double road capacity across the Thames."
Public information events are being held in Kent and Essex between 20 October and 5 December.