A NEW crossing over or under the River Thames could cost billions of pounds.

The Government is proposing three options, which were put up for public consultation yesterday, wit any new crossing likely to cost between £900million and £3.6billion.

It is thought Option C would provide the greatest benefit to the economy and motorists, but at great cost to Thurrock’s green belt land, between Chadwell St Mary and East and WestTilbury, at a cost of up to £3.6billion.

According to the Government’s own report, the impact on the surrounding area’s land and townscape would be “moderate to adverse”.

The Government is asking residents in south Essex to register their views on all three options and speaking at the consultation launch Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said there was great demand andneed for a new crossing.

Mr Hammond said: “We’ve done detailed analysis of demand predictions for this area and the need for a crossing in this part of the country to boost the strategic network and boost economic growth.

“It is quite clear that over the next 25 years you’re going to see an increase in traffic of something like 25 per cent and that’s why the need is there.”

The cheapest crossing, Option A, suggests a new route over or under the river close to the current one, while Option B suggests a new crossing passing through Grays Beach Park and between the docks, ASDA Tilbury and the Thurrock Park estate to the Dock Approach Road.

Mr Hammond said: “The Government has no preference and we have clearly set out in the document the reality of merits and problems with each route.

“We absolutely accept with route C there are huge economic benefits, but there are huge problems with the environment and that’s one of the things we will have to take into consideration.

“This is a genuine consultation and so what will happen at the end of this is the Government and the Department for Transport will assess the evidence before making an announcement on the preferred option in the autumn.”

Thurrock MP Jackie DoylePrice said: “There is a need for more river crossings east of Tower Bridge.I am,however, disappointed at the options we have before us.

“I have said any new crossing must not lead to more motorways in Thurrock, must not add to Thurrock’s already congested road network and must alleviate congestionat the Dartford crossing.I don’t believe any of the options meets all the three criteria and I will continue to make these points to ministers.

“I will also be working with colleagues in Parliament to highlight the business case for additional crossings in East London instead.”