The announcement by the Highways Agency of the Preferred route for a Third Thames Crossing shows an endgame for 20 years of uncertainty over linking Essex and Kent. The lack of any project to link the two was an ultimate failing of the Thames Gateway project. There was no infrastructure led gateway. We now know from census data that far from being a ‘growth’ area regional plans for the area (which never included major new strategic growth locations) actually proposed less housing than household growth suggested. So far from a growth policy it was one of restraint.
The crossing project is controversial, Thurrock unsurprisingly opposes it because of impact on residents.
One of the main drivers of change is here the huge growth of logistics around Tilbury with the development of a 1 billion expansion of Tilbury – under the DCO regime and as such separate from all other planning and transport decisions, the new port London Gateway (on a former oil refinery) and the very rapid development of the former Coryon oil refinery at Coryton as Thames Enterprise Park. This represents a rapid shift to a post oil economy. All of these terminals will be gone within 40 years. In employment terms this is the fasting growing parish in the UK.
But why only a road tunnel? A rail connection between Essex and Kent has been mooted for generations?
The potential is highlighted by the Mayor of London taking over safeguarding of and promotion of Crossrail 1 extension to Ebbsfleet, Gravesend and Hooe sidings, a location only 3 milws from the proposed tunnel.
I suggest Crossrail 2 veers north just west of Hooe sidings into two extra parallel tunnels dug at must reduced cost alongside and at the same time as the Lower Thames Crossing. Then it would veer north with an interchange station with C2C at West Tilbury, then with the London Tilbury and Southend line at West Tilbury. Finally it would head north west to avoid the hills at Thordon to meet with Crossrail 1 heading into London at Nags Head Lane, with a eastern chord to enable connections from Norwich and Brentwood through to Kent and vice versa.
The eastern end of Crossrail 1 would become a loop greatly easing headway and capacity issues (as indeed could the Western End via Hook and Aldershot but that is another story).
This clearly would greatly increase rail accessibility in South Essex to the growth areas of Thurrock. It also opens up possibilities from strategic growth locations for South Essex in their emerging strategic plan. By the way all of the points of interchange I mentioned are outside flood risk areas.
As per Crossrail 2 land value capture would offset part of the cost.
As for the tunnel spoil, as for Crossrail 1 lets use it for land reclamation in the area , for new Salt Marsh or for new areas for housing growth, or both.
So why not calculate a BCR of this and associated development opportunities opened up?