The future of the Lower Thames Crossing hangs in the balance amidst fears the Prime Minister may withdraw investment after cuts to the HS2 project.

The Government’s lack of commitment towards large-scale infrastructure projects has raised concerns, including the decision to abandon the northern aspect of the high-speed rail scheme linking London with Manchester.

Currently under review for a development consent order, the LTC project was given a two-year postponement by the Department for Transport (DfT) in March.

The controversial project aims to reduce congestion at the Dartford Crossing by building a 2.6 mile tunnel connecting Kent and Essex.

When queried about their plans to either scale back or scrap the tunnel scheme, a spokesperson for the DfT told Kent Online that it was going ahead.

They noted that the LTC, one of the largest planning applications, has received £800 million.

The spokesperson said the postponed time would provide the opportunity to consider stakeholder views and craft a workable plan that manages increasing inflation along with ensuring that all planning processes are carried out correctly.

A statement from the DfT given to Kent Online says: “As one of the largest planning applications ever, the Lower Thames Crossing, backed by £800 million to date, will also be slowed down by 2 years.

“This will allow more time to take into account stakeholder views and prepare an effective and deliverable plan, while helping to meet inflationary pressures and deliver the planning processes properly.”

The start of the construction hinges on securing funding and receiving government approval.

Over the upcoming six months, a panel of independent experts appointed by the government will conduct a comprehensive review of National Highways' application for a Development Consent Order.

Assuming approval is granted, the six-year construction phase is anticipated to commence in 2026.

The Guardian has highlighted concerns as in July, the all-party House of Commons select committee on transport advised the government to reconsider its approach to high-cost project investments.

This call was made in light of steepening costs, net zero focuses, and an aging network requiring more maintenance.

Stephen Joseph, a transport analyst and visiting professor at Hertfordshire University, spoke to The Guardian about the project, stating the LTC is particularly questionable as groundwork is yet to begin, despite its high cost.

Stephen Joseph, a visiting professor on transport solutions at Hertfordshire University, told The Guardian: “Much of the focus has been on HS2 but there are other projects that must now be in doubt, particularly the Lower Thames Crossing, which is very expensive and which has not seen any spades sunk in the ground yet.”

Meanwhile, Laura Blake, Chairwoman of the opposing Thames Crossing Action Group, firmly asserts that there is plenty of evidence to halt the crossing project.

She told the Guardian: “We believe there is plenty of evidence to show that the crossing should not go ahead. It fails to meet its objectives, and would not solve the problems at the Dartford Crossing, which would still remain overcapacity.

“It would be hugely destructive and harmful, including a whopping 6.6m tonnes of carbon emissions. The cost has risen from £4.1bn up to £9bn as of August 2020, and we believe it will now be in excess of £10bn and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”

On July 18, National Highways released its latest update on the Lower Thames Crossing by explaining that it has named Skanska the preferred bidder status for the £450 million Kent Roads contract as part of the Lower Thames Crossing project.

This contract involves constructing the southern segment of the route, connecting the A2/M2 to the tunnel approach.

It encompasses significant infrastructure, including nearly four miles of new road, an expansive green bridge, a public park, and 12 miles of enhanced pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.

National Highways said that the Lower Thames Crossing project is committed to carbon-neutral construction and set high sustainability standards.

National Highways plans to collaborate closely with Skanska on a low-carbon design approach, working with Mott McDonald, and promoting innovative materials and technologies.