Users of the Dartford Crossing have been told to expect a ‘significant level of disruption’ after traffic control bosses at the Dartford Crossing announced that the bridge and tunnel had been closed from 7pm on Tuesday evening.
According to Terence Le Hérisson of DartCros, the French-owned company that owns both crossings, a geological survey carried out on Saturday revealed that the stretch of coastline from Gravesend to Dartford has ‘shifted’ approximately 3mm further away from Essex since the last survey was carried out in 2002 – this may therefore affect the structure of the bridge and the tunnel.
Mr Le Hérisson added: ‘Over the last 14 years, it appears that the distance between Essex and Kent directly in line with the bridge and the tunnel has increased by 3mm. While this wouldn’t normally lead to any concerns, the bridge and the tunnel were not originally fitted with rubber joists or polycarbonate foam, and so we now need to check that the concrete and tarmac haven’t been stretched past their safe limit.’
‘This event may be linked to the recent seismic activity further up the coast between Canvey and Southend – after all the Dartford Crossings also rest on the Boyraceus Fault.’
‘When the QE2 Bridge was originally built, we decided against using extendable bridge joints as this would have added £750,000 to the original construction costs, and the costs of building the bridge wouldn’t have been recouped until 2026 at the earliest.’
We asked Mr Le Hérisson if the crossings would both be closed for an extended period of time, but he was adamant that there is literally no information available at this stage of the investigation.
He added: ‘As everyone will probably realise already, motorist safety is always at the forefront of anything that we do. The science is incredibly simple in this situation, and there is a risk that a 3mm gap could open up in the bridge or the tunnel at any time.’
This isn’t the first time in the last few months that there has been a problem at the crossing. Traffic in both directions was recently brought to a standstill by large groups of Pokémon Go players stepping out into the road to catch rare characters, and security bosses are continuing to struggle against the sheer volume of Kent residents who are trying to walk through the tunnel and enter Essex illegally.