An ambitious plan to build a tram route linking north Kent and Essex would be a tenth of the cost of the Lower Thames Crossing yet would take just 4% fewer commuters, according to the people behind the scheme.
The project was proposed earlier this year as a secondary way to relieve congestion in Dartford, as work accelerates on the controversial LTC, which the government has earmarked for east of Gravesend, despite the efforts of local campaigners.
A map charting proposed stops for the tram route, known as KenEx Thames Transit, has also been released, with three potential routes identified, as the project ramps up a gear.
If the scheme goes ahead, two of those routes – one between Lakeside and Bluewater and another connecting Dartford and Gravesend – will be built within the next five years.
The £600million price tag is just a fraction of the £4.4bn-£6.2bn cost of the LTC due in part to the newly proposed ‘cut-and-cover’ tunnelling method – which would see a trench excavated along the bed of the Thames and sections of the single-track tunnel sunk into position.
The construction method has been used on 100 projects worldwide, including the Medway Tunnel.
A tram could run along the route every six minutes, carrying 2,000 passengers in each direction every hour and five to six million people a year.
Transport campaigner James Willis, who is backing the scheme, said while the LTC, which is expected to be delivered by 2026, would ease traffic at the Dartford Crossing by 14%, KenEx could take 10% of the crossing’s users and halve journey times as it would not be dependent on traffic flow.
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He said: “We’re not proposing this as an alternative to the Lower Thames Crossing but rather an addition which could be delivered far sooner in order to solve a very real problem.
“The scheme would be privately funded and would pay for itself in 50 years. We’re happy we can secure that funding.”
This year KenEx representatives have met with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation; London Resort Holdings; Dartford, Gravesham and Thurrock councils; Adam Holloway MP; various MEPs; the All Parliamentary Light Rail Group and hundreds of residents from both sides of the river.
Designer Gordon Pratt, a financial accountant, said: “It’s been a really busy year, but there’s a lot more work to be done. It’s really pleasing how many people want further information.”
Further details are available on the KenEx website.