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The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing

The original idea of a tunnel under the Thames from Tilbury Fort to Gravesend was put forward in the late 18th century, later abandoned due to cost.

  • Dartford to Thurrock crossing timeline

In 1924 the crossing from Tilbury Fort to Gravesend was rejected in favour of a crossing between Dartford and Purfleet. In 1929 the Essex and Kent County Councils promoted a bill for the construction of a tunnel. The construction of a pilot tunnel was authorised in 1936 and completed in 1938. World War II prevented progress on the full-bore tunnel but preparations for its construction were revived in 1955. The tunnel, now known as the West Bore, was completed and opened in 18 November 1963 at a total cost of £11 million. The East Bore Tunnel opened to traffic on 16 May 1980. The third river crossing, named the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, was opened by Her Majesty on 30 October 1991.

Charging for crossing the Thames at Dartford dates back to medieval times. Nuns from the Dartford Priory were given the right to operate a ferry service to raise funds for the church.

The crossing at that time was between two pubs, the White Hart in Greenhithe and the Rising Sun in Essex. The pubs ran the crossing as a private venture themselves. The White Hart on Kent side is still there but it is now called the Sir John Franklin. The Rising Sun is no longer there.

  • QEII bridge under construction c. 1990

  • QEII bridge under construction c. 1990

    QEII bridge under construction c. 1990
  • QEII bridge under construction c. 1990

    QEII bridge under construction c. 1990
  • Dartford-Thurrock East Tunnel Construction c.1980

  • Dartford-Thurrock East Tunnel Construction c.1980

    Dartford-Thurrock East Tunnel Construction c.1980
  • Dartford-Thurrock East Tunnel Construction c.1980

Facts about the Tunnels

  • Length: 1,435m and 1,446m
  • Length (including approach roads) 3¾ Miles
  • Total Cost £13million and £45million

Facts about the Bridge

  • Length 2869m
  • Main span river clearance 60m
  • Total Cost £86million
  • Dartford Tunnel
  • Aerial-view of QE2 bridge and tunnels
  • Approach to Dartford Tunnel

Dartford Crossing cycle transport service information

Cyclists are prohibited from using the A282 Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing. Connect Plus Services provides a free-of-charge cycle transport service to cyclists who wish to cross the QEII Bridge or use the Dartford Tunnel to travel between Kent and Essex.

Please report to Essex Point or Kent Point and follow on-site signage to locate the yellow telephone. This phone is directly connected to the Crossing cycle transport service. You can request a pick-up from here. Please wait in the designated areas. A suitably-equipped vehicle will arrive to transport you, and your bike, through the crossing.

Essex Point can be accessed from near to 859 London Road, Grays, Essex, RM20 3AT or via the dedicated cycleway adjacent to the M25 (A282) clockwise Junction 31 entry slip road.

Kent Point can be accessed from the Crossing Offices Roundabout, South Orbital Road, Dartford, Kent, DA1 5PR.

The cycle transport service operates seven days a week during fixed time periods throughout the day. Please consult the timetable to plan your journey accordingly. Please bear in mind that the service is subject to delays during periods of congestion or roadworks.


Dartford traffic and tunnel safety information

The Dartford Tunnel is subject to a number of restrictions for high-sided vehicles, abnormal loads and those carrying dangerous goods. This leaflet explains the restrictions in more detail, and includes information about the abnormal load charge in operation at the northbound Dartford Crossing.

A Traffic Safety System (TSS) is in use on the A282 (M25) northbound approach to the Dartford Tunnel. The system combines vehicle detection equipment, electronic message signs, traffic signals and barriers and is used to help stop oversized vehicles or those carrying dangerous goods from entering the tunnels. It will also enable dangerous goods vehicles to be escorted through the tunnels safely and stop traffic in the event of an incident in the tunnels.

The TSS can also be used to manage the flow of traffic into the tunnel. This feature is used to prevent vehicles queuing in the tunnel, and is activated if there is congestion, an incident, or roadworks in or after the tunnel.

This leaflet tells you what to expect and how to drive through the traffic safety system.

The Dartford Tunnel is subject to additional restrictions in order to reduce the likelihood of an incident. Additional safety features are included in the tunnel to protect road user safety. Specialist information is also available on how to respond in the event of an emergency. Please take the time to familiarise yourself with this information by clicking here.

Under the ADR, the Dartford Tunnel is classified as Category C, with additional operating restrictions. If you are carrying hazardous goods you must report to the vehicle escort area, via A282 junction 1a, to be checked before using the tunnels. A full listing of the dangerous goods restrictions can be found here.



Images and header image courtesy of Highways England Company Ltd, licensed under Creative Commons.