A multi-billion-pound construction project to build a road tunnel beneath the River Thames has been outlined by Highways England.

The Lower Thames Crossing, which would run between Essex and Kent, would be the first link across the river east of London to be built in 25 years.

Estimates suggest it could create as many as 5,000 jobs nationwide, and add around £7 billion to the economy.

As many as 77,000 vehicles would use the tunnel each day in its first year, it is thought, helping to ease congestion on the Dartford Crossing.

A consultation on the project has now been launched, and will run until March 24.

If given the go-ahead, the tunnel would run from the end of the M2 near Rochester and cross the river at Gravesend.

It would cost between £4.3 billion and £5.9bn, with the Government providing the funding, according to Highways England.

In addition to boosting capacity, the tunnel would shorten journey times to and from the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

The proposals come after plans to build a bridge or tunnel next to the Dartford Crossing itself were rejected.

Roads Minister Andrew Jones said the scheme would bring a range of benefits both to the region and the country as a whole.

“The Government is committed to delivering a Lower Thames Crossing which will increase capacity and provide better, faster journeys across the Thames,” he said.

“Once complete it could add over £7 billion to the economy by increasing investment and business opportunities, and create over 5,000 new jobs nationally.”

The tunnel would be the first crossing of the Thames east of London since the Queen Elizabeth II bridge was built in 1991.