Why Lower Thames Crossing bosses think it could be the greenest road ever built in Britain

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The £9 billion Lower Thames Crossing could become the greenest road ever to be built in Britain according to National Highways who've unveiled the sort of technology which it believes will achieve their eco reality.

Sights have been set on upscaling hydrogen technology to power the heavy machinery needed to build two tunnels under the River Thames to connect Kent and Essex.

It's 14 times lighter than air but three times more expensive than diesel, the fuel traditionally used in construction projects, with anti-crossing campaigners describing the announcement is nothing more than a PR stunt.

Matt Palmer, Executive Director, Lower Thames Crossing said, “The proposed Lower Thames Crossing is designed to be the greenest road ever built in the UK, with the aim of being carbon neutral in construction.

A hydrogen powered engine prototype Credit: ITV News Meridian

"At the heart of these plans is the use of clean low-carbon hydrogen power, and by using it on such a large scale to power our heavy construction machinery that is traditionally hard to electrify, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, accelerate the construction industry’s shift away from diesel, and help kick start the creation of a hydrogen ecosystem in the Thames Estuary."

Laura Blake from the Thames Crossing Action Group said, "There aren't any guarantees that any of what they're saying is actually possible. And obviously that would also push the price up.

"Green hydrogen is by no means cheap. It's not readily available and it uses a lot of electricity at a time when we've got electricity shortages throughout the country. So we don't think it's as good as they might be trying to make out.

"It was only last year at an industry event that it was said that it would be very difficult to do so and the technology wasn't there. And anything at the moment will be a prototype. Now, when you're talking about such a huge project, should we really be gambling so much public money on something that is trialing prototypes and stuff that's not really properly available yet?"

National Highways say the move to create a hydrogen network will support 9,000 jobs across the Thames Estuary, and the purchase of 6 million kilograms of hydrogen will replace around 20 million litres of diesel.

The Government's said the opening of the Lower Thames Crossing will be two years later than expected because of inflation Credit: National Highways

Alasdair Reisner, CEO of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association said,

"We have a shared challenge to drive carbon out of the construction industry, finding alternatives to diesel is vital.

"The journey will be difficult unless we start to make progress now and the leadership shown by the Lower Thames Crossing to use hydrogen at this unprecedented scale shows it can be done, and invites others to take a similarly bold step forward."

The application for the Lower Thames Crossing is currently being examined by the planning inspector as part of the decision making process.

Earlier this year, construction of the Lower Thames Crossing, which was due to start in 2024, was pushed back by two years by the Government over inflationary pressures.

The 14-mile route is designed to ease pressure on the Dartford Crossing but this delay means it won't be operational until 2031 at the earliest.

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