The Dartford Crossing
Over the last 60 years, the Dartford Crossing has played a vital role in bringing new opportunities within reach of those living in Kent and Essex
The Dartford Crossing is currently the only way to cross the Thames east of London by road and links the counties of Essex and Kent via the cable-stayed, 137 metre high Queen Elizabeth II bridge for southbound traffic and two 0.8 mile long tunnels for northbound journeys.
The Dartford Crossing, also known as the A282, connects directly at both ends with the M25 London Orbital Motorway, one of the busiest motorways in Europe. Carrying over 50 million vehicles a year, the Dartford Crossing is designed to handle 135,000 vehicles a day, but the average is now 150,000 a day – with the busiest days seeing up to 180,000 vehicles using it. Almost 40% of the vehicles using the Dartford Crossing each day are freight vehicles or HGVs – much higher than on other major roads.
Timeline: The Dartford Crossing
Ideas for the Dartford Crossing first proposed by the Ministry of Transport.
Initially a crossing was suggested between Tilbury and Gravesend but a route near Dartford was selected.
The first engineering works began between 1936 and 1938, with work pausing due to World War II.
Works resumed in 1959.
The two lane, bored tunnel of the new Dartford Crossing opens with one lane of traffic flowing in each direction.
Cars were different in 1963, British made Austins, Vauxhall Victors and Ford Cortinas, which were built just up the river in Dagenham, were a fraction of the size, weight and power of today’s vehicles.
The Dartford tunnel was expected to carry two million vehicles a year when it first opened but within seven years, social and economic growth meant that number has already reached eight million.
Plans for a new, second tunnel was announced in 1970.
An additional tunnel with two extra lanes was opened (the eastern tunnel). Each tunnel was now able to handle one direction of traffic.
Construction begins on the Queen Elizabeth II bridge.
The bridge deck is approximately 61 meters high and took a team of over 50 to assemble.
Queen Elizabeth II bridge opens with an additional four lanes.
The bridge had the longest cable stayed span of any bridge in Europe at the time of opening. It is the only bridge across the Thames downstream of central London since Tower Bridge was opened in 1894.
The Department for Transport begin looking at options for an additional crossing to tackle the growing congestion at Dartford.
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.
300 people, including 100 traffic officers, are dedicated to one 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.