Election candidates are backing a £600M tram scheme mooted for development alongside the Lower Thames Crossing.
The KenEx Thames Transit tram link is proposed to cut pollution and congestion around the Dartford Crossing, as local journeys reportedly account for 30% of traffic. The tram crossing would run through its own 1.5km tunnel under the Thames to provide a new public transport link between Kent and Essex.
A feasibility study has not yet been completed, but engineering firms and tram experts are being consulted on technical aspects of the proposal and have informed backers that as the project would require tunnelling through chalk it would be relatively expensive.
The scheme has been proposed by Brighton Main Line 2 project advisor Gordon Pratt, who says it would cost £600M and would be privately financed. By contrast the Lower Thames Crossing would cost up to £6bn to build and would serve cars and freight traffic.
Under the proposals three lines would cover 24 stops, including Ebbsfleet International rail station and Bluewater shopping centre.
Lib Dem candidate for Gravesham James Willis has given his backing to the tram scheme, which supporters say could take away 10% of the 50M vehicles using the Dartford Crossing each year.
“There’s a lot of talk of resilience, but to me resilience means you’ve got to be multi-modal, you can’t just rely on cars,” Willis told New Civil Engineer.
“For pollution reasons this could be a second rebirth of tram and light rail in the South East.”
Local Labour and Green Party candidates have also given their backing to the scheme, which supporters hope can be completed by the time the Lower Thames Crossing opens in 2025.
The government announced its preferred route for the Lower Thames Crossing in April.
The chosen route was Option C meaning the road would cross under the River Thames via two tunnels (northbound and southbound) east of Gravesend, Kent, and emerge near Tilbury in Essex.
North of the river, a new road would run from a new junction on the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 and connect to the tunnel via the A13. To the south, a new road would run from the tunnel to the A2 east of Gravesend.
Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph said: “New roads, however big or expensive, do not solve congestion, that’s why we support public transport alternatives which aim to address the problem by reducing the number of vehicles on the roads.”
”A tram system might be one solution, other options that should be considered include expanding port capacity north of the Thames, improving freight and passenger rail links to Kent and measures like distance-based HGV charging to better manage traffic.”