National Highways get DCO app to cross the Thames this time around

CGI of the north entrance to the Lower Thames Crossing tunnel

National Highways submitted its planning application for the £8.2billion road project on Monday October 31, four years after the initial statutory consultation process.

It was not his first attempt.

In October 2020, the national highways filed an S46 pre-application notice, but the Town Planning Inspectorate advised that the application lacked the necessary details and was therefore withdrawn. It took two years of additional work and further consultation to shape the request into a form that the Planning Inspectorate – the government’s independent planning authority – would have even considered.

The decision to accept the application means that the Planning Inspectorate is now satisfied that the national road consultation has finally been carried out correctly and that they will consider the application for development permission. The planning process is expected to take approximately 18 months, including six months of review, with some taking place at public hearings.

If consent is granted, construction could begin as early as 2024, according to National Highways.

Matt Palmer, Executive Director of Lower Thames Crossing, said: “The Planning Inspectorate has accepted that our comprehensive design consultation and development program has been undertaken correctly, meaning our plans can now proceed for a thorough and thorough review by an independent government. – appointed experts.”

The building permit cannot be taken for granted; there is a lot of opposition to the project. Among the vocal opponents is Jackie Doyle-Price, a Conservative MP for the traditionally fringe seat of Thurrock, on the north side of the proposed crossing. She believes the tunnel will add to congestion on Thurrock’s road network.

She told Transport Secretary Mark Harper that the design for the crossing had “past its sell-by date” and that the Minister should “rip it up and start over”.

She said: ‘What we have in front of us now is an M25 bypass for Dover HGV traffic. There is no advantage for our port sector in this current design.

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“It has been 15 years since the government began to consult on this road. Many things have changed during this period. Especially Brexit. Brexit has completely transformed the economics of port activity. It removed Dover’s competitive advantage over other ports. This is why Tilbury 2 opened to accommodate new European port traffic. When circumstances change, decisions must be reviewed.

“I fully support the need for more crossings across the Thames, but I fear that this particular proposal has now passed its sell-by date. It will no longer provide the expected benefits. We should, in short, tear it up and start over.

She added: “I can suggest a quick win to tackle the congestion at Dartford Pass. Junction 30 of the M25 remains a serious bottleneck. Not least because the A13 has no east-facing slips at the lakeside junction. Therefore, traffic must head west to Junctions 30 and 31 to head east. East-facing slides at the lake junction would significantly reduce congestion and make the road network more resilient in the event of traffic incidents.

The £8.2billion project includes the construction of a twin-bore tunnel under the River Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend, plus 14.3 miles of new roads to link it to the M25 and the ‘A13 (north of the rover) and to the M2. /A2 (southbound). At 4.3km long, it will be the longest road tunnel in the UK and with a diameter of over 16 metres, the widest tunnel in Europe.

Three bidders are pre-selected to build the tunnels. They are:

  • BFV – Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial and Vinci joint venture, supported by Atkins, Tecnica y Proyectos (TYPSA) and Stantec
  • Bouygues Murphy Joint Venture (BMJV), backed by Mott McDonald and Ove Arup & Partners
  • Joint Venture Dragados-Hochtief (DH JV).

Four bidders are shortlisted for the South Side Kent road construction package:

  • JV BFV
  • costain
  • Kier Eiffage JV
  • Skanska Construction United Kingdom

Two bidders are shortlisted for the North Side Essex road construction package:

  • Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering
  • Kier Eiffage JV.

US consulting engineer Jacobs has a £162.5 million contract to oversee construction of the entire project.

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