The leader of Kent County Council has revealed his preferred option for the new Thames crossing.
Three options have been put forward as possible sites for a new bridge or tunnel crossing between Kent and Essex.
KCC’s leader Paul Carter says the council is backing option C that would connect the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30. Option C, It would pass through undeveloped green belt land including Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ancient woodland and the Thames Marshes.
The other possible options are:
Option A: at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock crossing;
Option B: connecting the A2 Swanscombe Peninsula with the A1089;
The variant to option C would additionally widen the A229 between the M2 and M20.
From next October motorists using the Dartford Crossing will be charged via number-plate recognition cameras. The barriers will be removed to create a “free-flow” system that the Highways Agency say will improve congestion.
Speaking to the BBC, Carter said: “I have enormous empathy with those who will live close to the link roads or what will eventually be the third Thames crossing, but I have to act in the best interests of the greater residency of Kent and the motorists of Kent. I passionately believe that a third Thames crossing is needed.”
Around 140,000 vehicles currently use the existing Dartford to Thurrock crossing every day. It consists of the QEII Bridge and a tunnel.
The leaders of both Dartford and Thurrock Councils would prefer to see what effect the removal of the toll barriers at the existing crossing has before any decision is made on building another.
John Kent, leader of Thurrock Council, said: “I fear that if you build another bridge or another tunnel in the east of the borough all you’ll do is replicate the problems of the west in the east – and everybody in the middle will be stuck in a hideous pincer movement.”
“If you do away with the tolls, you free up extra capacity on the crossing.
“I think you’ll find you have enough capacity to improve things beyond the point where you need a new crossing.”
Jeremy Kite, the leader of Dartford Borough Council, added: “It’s about finding the right solution for Britain.
“I do think it’s a shame the Government isn’t consulting on other options. It is murderously more expensive the further down the estuary you go, but if we are really in this for the long haul surely what we should be doing is looking for the right results.”
According to estimates option C would be the most expensive with the other options costing between £1.2bn and £2.2bn.
The consultation over the location options for the new crossing will end next Tuesday (16 July). Results will be announced in the autumn.