Across the UK there are many areas which take a look at the possibility of introducing trams and then after a while and the realisation of the scale of any such project quietly abandon the project but one region which is still actively looking into plans for a new tram network to link Dartford with Grays via a Thames crossing. We last reported on the KenEx Tram plan in 2017 but a new update has just been released by the project team with a boost to the plan in regards to a proposed tunnel under the Thames.
The KenEx Tram is promoted by private company Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd and would eventually see Dartford, Swanscombe, Gravesend, Ebbsfleet International and Grays connected. The total length of the route would be 30km which would include a 1.2km submerged tunnel under the River Thames. It is planned that the initial core route would run from Chafford Lakeside to Bluewater and Darent Hospital via Grays, London Resort and Ebbsfleet with a branch off that route to serve Northfleet and Gravesend. Future routes could head to Dratford, Purfleet, Tilbury and Stanford Le Hope.
The latest update is in relation to the proposed tunnel with a brief statement saying: “Last Wednesday, after months of hard work and technical appraisal, Councillors at Kent County Council considered safeguards for the future of a Garden City public transport route which could be used by the crossriver KenEx tram. In a show of support for sustainable future development, Councillors agreed to the construction of a new tunnel and not to infill an existing tunnel, but consider alternatives safeguarding future transportation options utilising this existing asset.”
Whilst this gives no guarantee that local authorities would back the plan for a tram – it was estimated three years ago that the cost would be £600 million for the entire project and this is likely to be much higher now – it does give a boost to the project which can now continue to progress their plans.
Gordon Pratt, KenEx Managing Director, said: “We welcome that Kent County Council Councillors have voted through crucial infrastructure to create the key public transport link between the new Ebbsfleet developments and Bluewater Shopping Centre. This connection is crucial to significantly reduce journey times by public transport. Furthermore, planners stated that the dimensions of the new tunnel will mean that it will, in the future, be able to take trams as well as buses which is key to Kent County Council’s stated aim of carrying up to 30 million passengers a year, equivalent to the London Tramlink network. A local tram network has broad support by local residents which has been recognised by Councillors who voted unanimously to request consideration of retaining an older tunnel and that the planners look “not to infill” but to consider alternative options safeguarding the future.”
Tony Young, Director of TravelWatch NorthWest and tramway consultant, added: “Having been heavily involved in the planning for Manchester’s Metrolink tram system, this has now become the largest and most successful tramway in Britain. Subsequently working as a tramway consultant for Kent County Council, in 1995 a tramway was planned linking Bluewater with Ebbsfleet, Dartford and Gravesend. There is now a great opportunity to safeguard the future option of developing a new tramway using part of the Fastrack busway linked to a new Thames crossing in a tunnel which will create routes directly linking Kent with Essex. Maintaining the old north tunnel within the Eastern quarry development will enable the growth in capacity to be retained for future generations. I am confident that the exciting and imaginative KenEx tram plans will dramatically enhance the local economy and environment of Thames Gateway.”
Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd continue to work with various local stakeholders for a “clean, sustainable, economically generative step change in local transport”. It is said to have broad public, business and political support and has recently completed its first successful funding round.
* More details on the project can be seen on the KenEx Tram website.