A MAN has died after plunging from the highest point of the Dartford Bridge into the River Thames.

Trained police officers spent four hours negotiating with the 42-year-old man, who was from the Buckinghamshire area, before he jumped from the QE2 Bridge at around 3pm this afternoon.

A lifeboat carried the man to a waiting ambulance on the shore but he was later prounounced dead at Darent Valley Hospital.

The Dartford Bridge, which was shut at 11am this morning, was re-opened at around 6pm tonight.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "Police officers including trained negotiators spent several hours talking to the man, trying to get him to come back over the barrier.

"But at 3pm, the man walked to the apex of the bridge and then plunged into the river."

During the seven-hour bridge closure, motorists travelling on the M25 clockwise from Essex into Kent were diverted through the west bore of the tunnel.

But despite the QE2 Bridge now being open traffic remains slow as far back as junction 29 at Romford - as it has done for most of the day - with journey times estimated at around two hours to reach junction 1A.

The diversion also saw drivers travelling from Kent into Essex face lengthy delays due to only the east bore tunnel being open, and traffic is still queuing close to junction 3, at the Swanley Interchange.

Goods vehicles travelling clockwise towards Kent were unable to use the west bore due to height restrictions and were directed to a stacking area to wait.

Officers were first called to the QE2 Bridge to reports of a man having stopped his car on lane one of the bridge.

On arrival, they found the man standing on the wrong side of the barriers and threatening to jump.

The coroner has been informed of the man's death and a post mortem is due to be carried out tomorrow.

Kent Police and the Highways Agency is advising motorists to avoid the crossing and use other routes where possible.