Lower Thames Crossing and the Garden Bridge take shape

Highways England is proposing a new crossing of the Thames estuary, linking Kent and Essex east of the Dartford Crossing. The proposals aim to reduce congestion at the existing crossing and will support growth plans in surrounding areas, including new homes and jobs. The additional crossing is part of a wider £2.2 billion investment programme outlined by Highways England to improve motorways and A roads in the South-east. The preferred plan, known as ‘Option C’, will connect Kent and Essex via a tunnel running from Tilbury to Gravesend.

Although the scheme will bring significant long-term benefits to road users and the economy, Highways England has received some criticism from local people living in Shorne, Kent, who say the Gravesend and Tilbury tunnel plan will cause “unacceptably high levels of pollution” and “devastation to the environment and landscape”.

Meanwhile, in central London, a different kind of crossing is being planned; it has been announced that work on London’s Garden Bridge – connecting Temple to the South Bank – will begin in summer 2016. The bridge’s main structure will be manufactured offsite in Italy, before being shipped to the UK and brought up the Thames to the Garden Bridge site by a barge. The bulk of the work will be carried out by Italian firm Cimolai and French firm Bouygues.

Despite its idealistic vision – a peaceful space in the middle of a busy city – the Garden Bridge has been controversial. Funded by £60 million of public money, there have been concerns about the procurement process at City Hall. Nevertheless, both Labour and Conservative mayoral candidates back the Garden Bridge.

Construction on the new crossing will last two years, with a tentative completion date fixed for summer 2018.