AMBITIOUS plans for a tunnel to link Canvey and Kent could become a reality, according to the man behind the project.

The idea for a road and rail tunnel, between west Canvey and the Hoo peninsula, have been put forward by a consortium called Metrotidal.

As well as the 8km tunnel, the ambitious project would also feature tidal barriers in the Thames, used to create sustainable energy.

The original plans were revealed in the Echo two years ago. Now the Metrotidal team, headed up by architect Mark Willingale, has revealed further details of how their project could benefit south Essex.

A third access road on Canvey from the A13, near Sadlers Farm, would link a dual carriageway to the tunnel. A major junction would be built at Northwick Road, Canvey, to allow traffic from the island to join the dual carriageway.

Mr Willingale, who is director of Metrotidal, said the plans would give people an indication of how the project could transform the area.

He said: “The golden rule with infrastructure projects is you don’t reveal where your route will be, because there’s always someone, somewhere who will be worried.

“We want people in south Essex to see exactly how the tunnel could benefit them.”

The tunnel will also provide a rail link, and would include plans for a new train station on the island, near Morrisons supermarket in Northwick Road.

A new line would go to north to Benfleet station, where passengers could join the c2c service to London Fenchurch Street. It would also go south, via the tunnel, to Gravesend in Kent, where passengers could board the high-speed train to London St Pancras.

Mr Willingale is excited by the prospect. He said: “Suddenly, Canvey will be only 40 minutes from central London, without changing trains.

People will be able to nip to Oxford Street in the afternoon to do their shopping. It’s incredible.”

The tidal barrier part of the scheme would create a reservoir on the Kent side, that could be used to create hydroelectric power. The energy could then be sold to the national grid as a way of offsetting the project’s carbon footprint.

It is also hoped the barrier could be used as part of the Thames’s flood defences as the reservoir could be drained to allow flood water in.

Mr Willingale said: “The timing is right for this. Imagine if we announced the plans for a major new road without the tidal power element? The green groups would be outraged. In the future, you can’t just build roads and factories without showing people how you are going to reduce the environmental impact.”

The project is likely to cost in the region of £4billion, and so far very little funding has been secured.

Mr Willingale expects the crossing to be financed by foreign investors, based in places like the Middle East and East Asia.

He said: “These people are there and ready to support us. They are just waiting for the politicians to give the crossing their blessing.”

But winning political support may be the hardest task.

Kent and Essex county councils are keen in theory.

Nicole Spicer, a spokeswoman for Essex County Council, said: “The implications of this proposed tunnel on the area of south Essex and the people living there will need to be considered carefully in any future decisions.”

More difficult to predict is central Government, where the Department of Transport, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Environment Agency, are all being consulted. The Department of Transport is currently committed to expanding the Dartford Crossing, with the possibility of a second bridge at Dartford in the coming years.

Mr Willingale said: “It’s always difficult because of the sheer number of departments we are dealing with.

“But these problems are not insurmountable, and I’m hopeful in ten or 20 years we won’t be having this conversation, but discussing a finished tunnel.”