Lower Thames Tunnel opening pushed back

The expected opening date for the Lower Thames Crossing has been put back by up to two years, Highways England has disclosed.

The government-owned company has announced details of a new round of public consultation in advance of a new application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) later this year.

It said that, if given the green light, construction is expected to start in 2024 and take around six years, leading to a revised road opening date between 2029 and 2030.

Highways England had previously said the project, which it describes as the most ambitious road scheme in a generation, would be open in 2027 or 2028.

It submitted an application for a DCO in October 2020, but withdrew after the Planning Inspectorate said it was likely to be rejected. It said at the time that it would be resubmitting the application ‘early in the new year’ but now plans to submit a new application later this year.

Highways England said the Community Impacts Consultation will give people the opportunity to review and comment on its plans to build and operate the crossing, and how it proposes to reduce its impact on the local community and environment. Topics include changes to traffic, air quality, noise and vibration, as well as the impact of the new crossing on the environment and landscape.

The consultation will also include some changes made to the project since the previous consultation in 2020. This includes a reduction in the area needed to build and operate the scheme, a smaller impact on local properties and woodland, and new public spaces on both sides of the river.

Highways England recently announced the creation of a new community woodland in partnership with Forestry England, and this consultation includes details of two new public parks; Chalk Park to the East of Gravesend, and Tilbury Fields in Thurrock. These will be connected by seven green bridges and over 46km of new or improved public footpaths.

Matt Palmer, executive director for Lower Thames Crossing, said: ‘People's feedback has been crucial in developing the project – not just to reduce the impact, but to find opportunities to enhance habitats for local wildlife, and create new public parks, woodland, and footpaths for the local community.'

The consultation will run from 14 July to 8 September and will include a range of ways to access information including a dedicated consultation website, webinars and a telephone service. If government guidance permits, there will also be a series of in-person events along the proposed route.

A range of documents will be also published alongside new visualisations and flythrough videos giving an overview of the route before, during and after it is built.

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