AMBITIOUS new plans have been revealed for a tunnel with a road and rail link between Canvey and Kent costing up to £4billion.

London engineering consortium Metrotidal is behind the new lower Thames crossing proposal linking Canvey with the Medway towns.

Director Mark Willingale said the proposals could give Canvey its own railway station for the first time and also a third access road off the island.

The scheme was revealed as Essex and Kent county councils announced plans for a study into the precise location of a new crossing.

Metrotidal's blueprint seeks to combine the tunnel with new flood defences protecting London and a tidal power plant in the middle of the Thames Estuary.

This could support a new eco-town or generate enough power to operate a rail service through the tunnel, the consortium said.

Mr Willingale, who has relations in Leigh and was brought up in Essex, said: "We propose to fund the tunnel by combining the emerging Government flood defence budget with private sector funding for the tunnel and tidal power plant."

The link from the Hoo Peninsula in Kent to the south west of Canvey would link the A130 and A13 in Essex with the A289 and M2 in Kent.

The new A130, which opened three years ago, and the proposed revamp of Sadlers Farm on the A13 would form an integral part of the scheme.

Mr Willingale said: "It would relieve congestion on the M25 at the Dartford crossing and offer a rail freight bypass east of London with a connection to the east coast ports and the Channel Tunnel."

The new tunnel would be built by laying concrete tubes in a trench in the Thames Estuary.

Island could be first eco-town in country'

LAND could be reclaimed from the sea to provide Canvey with a railway station and a new £110million redevelopment, it has been revealed.

An area to the east of the planned tunnel has been earmarked for reclamation as part of the proposal for a new tunnel between Canvey and Kent.

Mr Willingale said: "We would propose to use the reclaimed land which adjoins the south west Canvey regeneration area, initially as a dry dock where the concrete tubes for the tunnel would be constructed.

"After this work has been carried out the land could revert to being part of the estuary or it could be used for development. It would seem a great shame if having reclaimed the land for the dry dock it was then left to become sea again.

"Obviously, it could be an ideal place for a new station to serve Canvey on the rail link and for commercial development.

"We have put a value of £110million on this site for reclamation but I would think that could be low compared to the true value when the whole scheme comes into operation.

"I believe the scheme could be good news for the island, with impovements to the infrastructure and the chance to be the first eco-town in the country."

Outrageous idea would ruin Canvey'

POLITICAL leaders have greeted Metrotidal's plans with scepticism.

Canvey Tory county councillor Ray Howard said: "I think it is an outrageous idea.

"It would ruin Canvey and have a serious effect on the environment.

"I hope there will be full discussions with the local people and a debate on the issue before any decision is made on this proposal.

"The study the county council is undertaking has to look at all the options but this is just not an acceptable idea." Mary Spence, chief executive of Thames Gateway South Essex said the Governnment plans for the area included looking at options for a new crossing.

She added: "This is an innovative proposal, which could also have benefits for our determination to tackle climate change.

"I hope people will let us know what they think of the idea."

Essex County Council leader, Lord Hanningfield, said: "I have a feeling this is not the sort of project which Essex and Kent county councils will be looking at for a lower Thames crossing.

"A tunnel from Canvey to the Medway towns would be extremely expensive and I think it would not be acceptable, although our study will be looking at all the available options."

Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Island Independence Party, added: "If you ask me it is a load of rubbish and just pie in the sky.

"We have heard plans like this before and they have never come to anything."

Castle Point Tory MP Bob Spink said: "It sounds as if it would be extremely expensive.

"I am concerned it may not be a good thing for Canvey Island and I have quite a number of concerns about it, having just heard about the proposals.

"I would also like to know the full details of how any such scheme would be financed."