Plans for a tram system connecting Kent and Essex have recently been revealed with the £600 million scheme wanted to help reduce congestion and pollution. The scheme – to be known as KenEx Thames Transit – has been privately proposed by Gordon Pratt, an accountant, who has previously suggested a second Brighton Main Line – a plan which although has gained some popularity has not been officially progressed.
Initial estimates suggest that 5 to 10 million passengers a year would travel on the system with three tram lines running through a tunnel under the Thames. The main line would run between Grays and the Bluewater Shopping Centre via Ebbsfleet with line 2 due to run between Grays and London Paramount (a proposed theme park in Swanscombe). The third line would be between Ebbsfleet Green and London Paramount. A proposed depot would be built on line 3.
Cllr James Willis, Liberal Democrat Councillor in Maidstone and standing as an MP in the election at Gravesham, is backing the plans and has said that he would find private funding for the system. He said: “It would link the two communities. Trams generally have good economic effects, if you look at Croydon and Manchester. It would be more cost-effective than trains to build, and it could take over the X80 bus route and speed it up with nil pollution. There is a government policy to look at sustainable public transport options and it has not been followed. We have been speaking to Thurrock Council and Ebbsfleet Garden City but only very gently. It is relatively early days. We are in discussions with experienced tram professionals and engineers as regards proposals. If Labour are in office we may well be publicly funded instead.”
It is hoped that KenEx would reduce people using the Dartford Crossing by 10%.
The plans are certainly ambitious and whether they prove to be more than pie in the sky remains to be seen. Certainly with a tunnel to be built under the Thames and 10km of track to be built at first glance it would seem that the £600 million said to be needed looks wildly optimistic.