Monday, November 23, 2020

Setback for Lower Thames Crossing Scheme as Plans Withdrawn

Longest Road Tunnels in the UK Delayed
Shipping News Feature

UK – The often controversial plan to dig a tunnel beneath the River Thames, creating the crossing of the river closest to the sea to date, met a hitch on Friday (20 November) when the Highways Agency pulled the plans at the 11th hour, just before they were due to be ruled on by the Planning Inspectorate.

The decision was apparently taken after discussions between the two parties regarding the Development Consent Order application which was submitted in October, prompting the Highways Agency to comment that plans will be resubmitted in the New Year after all comments and evidence has been collated and considered.

Thurrock Council has been extremely malleable with regard to new development in the Borough. The Local Development Order in place which concerns London Gateway port means planning permission for new developments on the Logistics Park can be achieved in under a month, but it seems the Council is the lead objector to aspects of this new tunnel scheme.

The Council believes the proposed route, which starts on the M25 near South Ockendon, runs through Tilbury and crosses the River Thames to Gravesham in Kent, would cut its region in half and has consistently objected, almost bringing the matter before the Courts two years ago.

Work has been undertaken for the past three years at an estimated cost of £100 million, principally concerned with the geology of the route which is heavily seamed with chalk. The overall cost of the scheme has seen varying estimates ranging from £6.4 billion to £8.2 billion and this month tendering works were announced for the design and build contracts.

The procurement process will continue despite this latest delay and, whatever happens with regards to planning, the scheme seems destined to go ahead, and will see tunnels constructed which would be currently the third largest in diameter in the world at 16 metres, and the longest road tunnels in the UK, ready to carry three lanes of traffic in each direction.