Government denies campaigners' allegations Lower Thames Crossing is 'smart motorway'

A fresh consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing launched on July 14 amid growing support

The Department for Transport said the Lower Thames Crossing would be a trunk road, and therefore a hard shoulder is not required for the full length of the scheme.  - Credit: Highways England

The government has denied campaigners’ allegations that the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) should be included in the government’s pause on "smart motorways". 

Construction on the multi-billion-pound project, which will create a new passage under the River Thames with the aim of easing traffic around the M25 and Dartford Crossing, is expected to impact the Upminster area.

Last week, the Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG), which has consistently opposed the project, wrote to Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, arguing the project should be put on ice. 

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently announced that new “smart motorway” schemes would be paused until five years of safety data became available. 

Designed to increase capacity on roads by making the hard shoulder a live running lane, smart motorways have received criticism from some safety campaigners. 

LTC argues the Thames crossing project should be included in the pause, alleging National Highways told it the project is being built to "smart motorway standards”. 

A DfT spokesperson said: “These claims are factually incorrect. The Lower Thames Crossing is being designed as a trunk road, similar to the A roads used by millions of motorists across the country. 

“It will be built to the same standards that make the UK’s roads among the safest in the world.” 

The department noted that as a trunk road, a hard shoulder is not required for the full length of the scheme. 

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Mark Bottomley, development director on the LTC project, said safety was its highest priority. 

“The new crossing will be an all-purpose trunk road, similar to the A13 and other A roads in Essex, that are used by tens of thousands of people every day,” he said. 

“It is being designed to the highest standards recommended today, but we will continue to adapt our plans to incorporate advances in safety design and technology that will come forward in the years ahead.  

“While the crossing is designated as an A road, we will of course be reviewing the government’s announcement and considering any changes we may need to make.”