Lower Thames Crossing - The need for the Lower Thames Crossing

The Dartford Crossing is one of our most vital roads, but also one of our most unreliable – the Lower Thames Crossing will ease congestion, and open up new opportunities 

Its unique position as the only road across the Thames east of London makes the Dartford Crossing one of the most strategically vital roads in the UK, connecting people to jobs, businesses to customers, and some of the country's biggest ports and distribution hubs. 

The first tunnel opened more than 60 years ago but despite a second tunnel and a bridge being added, it still cannot keep up with unprecedented demand. Designed to handle 135,000 vehicles a day, it now averages 150,000 a day and requires a dedicated team to manage it around the clock. The huge numbers of vehicles that use it each day make it one of the country’s most unreliable roads, causing misery for millions of motorists and acting as a handbrake on the economy. 

Congestion at the Dartford Crossing costs the UK millions of pounds every year in time lost sitting in traffic.  

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London – easing congestion on the Dartford Crossing, improving journeys across the south east, and creating a reliable new route across the river. 

The Dartford Crossing - a vital link

Its unique location makes the Dartford Crossing one of the UKs most strategically important roads

  • It’s the only road crossing of the Thames east of London – compared to 16 between the Blackwall Tunnel and west London
  • It carries over 50 million vehicles a year – close to 40% of these are goods vehicles
  • A significant amount of the UK's port freight travels through the Port of Tilbury and Dover, London Gateway and Medway – which all rely on the Dartford Crossing
  • Initially opened in 1963, an additional tunnel with 2 extra lanes was opened in 1981 and the QEII bridge with an additional 4 lanes was opened in 1991

Unprecedented demand causes congestion and delays

The crossing cannot keep up with the huge demand, making the crossing one of the UK's most congested and unreliable roads

  • Congestion at the Dartford Crossing costs the UK millions every year in time stuck in traffic 
  • Designed for 135,000 vehicles a day, it is now operating over capacity and is regularly used by over 150,000
  • On its busiest days is it used by up to 180,000 a day – this will be the norm by 2042
  • Northbound in the evening peak - 19 out of 20 journeys are delayed, two thirds take twice as long as they should, three times a month they take five times longer

A dedicated team keep Dartford moving

A dedicated team works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep the crossing open and businesses and people moving – but a new, long term solution is needed

  • 3,000 incidents a year - one of the highest incident rates on the road network
  • 300 people, including 100 traffic officers, are dedicated to 1 mile of road – the largest team of its kind in the UK
  • A unique system to escort abnormal loads and dangerous good vehicles through the crossing safely means one of the tunnels closes on average every 15 minutes during peak times - this adds up to around 27 days per year

Benefits of the Lower Thames Crossing

The Lower Thames Crossing will tackle congestion and unlock growth

Find out more
Lower Thames Crossing - The need for the Lower Thames Crossing