This month marks 55 years since the first Dartford tunnel opened for business.
Since that day in November 1963, a second tunnel and bridge were built to transport the growing number of cars crossing the Thames.
As the only crossing east of London, Dartford sees around 155,000 vehicle journeys every day. In fact, since 1963, there have been some 1.5 billion journeys across the River Thames at Dartford.
This growing number of crossings is one of the many reasons the Lower Thames Crossing cannot come soon enough for us here in Dartford. The new tunnel east of Gravesend will offer two 3-lane 70mph roads, giving motorists a clear alternative to the Dartford Crossing.
Highways England is currently holding a 10-week consultation on the new crossing and there have already been more than 15,000 responses. During this consultation, 60 events across the region are being hosted with 350,000 leaflets and 1.5m emails distributed.
If everything goes to plan and the Government approve the Development Consent Order, work on the new crossing should start in 2021. At the height of construction there will be around 4,500 people working on the project with many of them from the surrounding areas. The decision to locate the new crossing away from Dartford was crucial as it ensures we avoid years of roadworks and the nightmare of more traffic being funnelled along roads that cannot cope as it is.
This ambitious tunnelling project is set to be one of the biggest in years and when constructed, it will add billions to the local economy and create thousands of jobs as well as provide much-needed extra road capacity.
We have waited a long time for this project to get off the ground and although I believe this should have been commissioned 15 to 20 years ago, I am pleased it is now well underway.
The consultation runs until December 20th and I would encourage everyone to have a look at the plans.
Dartford has suffered traffic misery for many years and I look forward to seeing this project move a step closer to completion.