Highways England has revealed plans for a new road tunnel under the Thames between Essex and Kent.
The proposed tunnel would cross the river just east of Gravesend and Tilbury. It would link to the end of the M2 in Kent and join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.
Highways England says a new crossing is needed to reduce congestion at the Dartford Crossing and unlock economic growth.
It has launched a consultation on the plans, which will run until 24 March and include 24 public exhibitions at venues across Kent and Essex.
Transport minister Andrew Jones said the new crossing ‘could add over £7bn to the economy by increasing investment and business opportunities, and create over 5,000 new jobs nationally’.
The planned scheme would be the first new Thames crossing east of London since the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford opened in 1991.
It is at one of two locations shortlisted in 2013 and was known as Option C. The selection of the location and the recommended use of a tunnel is the result of work carried out since by Highways England. The Department for Transport says the Government will take a final decision next year.
Highways England senior project manager Martin Potts said: ‘Deciding where the new crossing should go is a vitally important decision, and we’ve been working hard to identify solutions that strike the best balance between improving journeys, getting value for money and managing environmental impact.
‘Our assessments have shown that Location C provides double the economic benefits of Location A as well as a clear alternative route to the Dartford Crossing, reducing congestion and improving resilience of the road network. And by choosing a tunnel rather than a bridge we can minimise the effects of the new road on the environment.’
He added: ‘There are important choices to be made. As well as inviting comments from the public about our recommendations, we have identified three routes for the new road to the north of the river and two routes south of the river. We welcome views on them all.’