A new connecting road between Kent and Essex is the only way to reduce traffic in Dartford, according to MP Gareth Johnson.

Highways England says the proposed major new road, known as the Lower Thames Crossing, will cut Dartford traffic by 22 per cent.

Latest designs show the Lower Thames Crossing will be a three-lane dual-carriageway that runs under the River Thames, rather than two lanes in some sections.

The £6.8 billion scheme is due to be completed by 2027 and a 10-week public consultation has now been launched.

Project director Tim Jones said it is the biggest road upgrade since the M25 was finished 30 years ago.

Dartford MP Mr Johnson told News Shopper he supports the revised proposals.

He said: “I have said for some time it is essential the Lower Thames Crossing is three lanes in each direction and 70mph because to do otherwise would create a bottleneck for motorists.

“For me, the Lower Thames Crossing can’t be built soon enough as it is the only effective way we can reduce traffic in the Dartford area.

"This crossing should have been commissioned 15 to 20 years ago, but unfortunately as it wasn’t we are playing catch-up.”

Jonathan Hawkes, leader of Dartford Labour, is also in favour of the plan but says more needs to be done to solve traffic issues in the borough.

He told News Shopper: "This won't solve our problems. We can't have the government not taking action on the Dartford traffic because we have a crossing opening in a decade's time.

"We need action much quicker. We will still have traffic jams on a regular basis in Dartford and we need firm action. We can't use the Lower Thames Crossing as an excuse not to act."

Mr Hawkes called for some of the revenue from the current Dartford Crossing to go towards improving traffic flow and air quality as well as reducing pollution.

Friends of the Earth believes the crossing will damage the environment.

Campaigner for the group, Jenny Bates, said: “This road development will only encourage more cars, vans, lorries and traffic, pumping more air pollution and climate-damaging emissions into our environment.

"Politicians need to take their foot off the accelerator in order to protect the planet.”

The 14.5 mile route will connect the M2 near Rochester in Kent and the M25 in Essex between North and South Ockenden.

It will be the first new crossing of the river east of London since Dartford's Queen Elizabeth II Bridge opened in 1991.

Having three lanes will result in a 90 per cent increase in capacity for traffic crossing the Thames east of London, compared with around 60 to 70 per cent under the previous two-lane plan, Highways England said.

It will include a 2.4-mile tunnel, which would be the UK's longest road tunnel.