A view of the Medway Tunnel
|Route||(A289) connecting Strood with Chatham in Kent, under the River Medway, in the UK|
|Constructed||May 1992 – June 1996|
|Opened||June 22, 1996|
|Operator||Rochester Bridge Trust|
|Length||780 ft (240 m)|
|Number of lanes||2 (eachway)|
|Operating speed||50 miles per hour (80 km/h)|
The Medway Tunnel is a tunnel under the River Medway linking Strood with Chatham in Kent, England. It forms part of the Medway Towns Northern Relief Road (A289). The Medway Tunnel is the first immersed tube tunnel to be built in England and only the second of this type in the UK, the other being at Conwy, North Wales.
In 1990 the Medway Tunnel Act was passed granting the Rochester Bridge Trust the power to build and own the tunnel. The work, which was carried out by an HBM Civil Engineering / Tarmac Construction joint venture, started in May 1992. The tunnel was constructed in three distinct sections. The centre part of the tunnel is the 370 metres of immersed tube, which is linked to cut and cover tunnels on both the Strood and Chatham banks of the river. The Medway Tunnel was opened by the Princess Royal in June 1996. In 1996, it won an award from the UK’s Concrete Society.
In 2008 negotiations were completed by the Conservative Council administration which purchased the freehold of the Tunnel from the Trust for £1 with a £3.6m contribution on future costs. This has caused controversy locally as the sum will not meet the 5-10 year short-term costs of the tunnel according to local Council budgets. Under the former agreement, the Trust had made discretionary contributions to help meet those costs since the Tunnel opened, amounting to about £0.5 million per year but these ceased.
Bicycles are currently prohibited from using the tunnel. According to a report commissioned by the Council in 2003, enabling cycling through the tunnel is the number one priority for encouraging bicycle usage in the Medway region. No action has subsequently been taken in this regard, possibly as the change will require an Act of Parliament.
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