A tram service under the River Thames linking Kent and Essex could create a greener alternative to the Dartford Crossing, whilst taking pressure off it.

The Kenex tram blueprint for a two-track 1.2-kilometre tunnel is currently being assessed by the Government.

The trams would run every three to four minutes, initially between Purfleet-on-Thames and Grays in Essex to Ebbsfleet, Northfleet and Gravesend with the majority of the track above ground.

Extensions would see the line reaching Basildon and Canvey Island while on the Kent side the tramway would link up to bus services connecting people to Bluewater Shopping Centre and Darent Valley Hospital.

Gordon Pratt, managing director from Thames Gateway Tramlink believes the tramline has a potential for 10 million customers every year with 2030 the target date to get the service up and running, “We’ve undertaken our work to establish the potential demand and we can look to other examples further in towards London at Lewisham and Woolwich, where the Docklands Light Railway has been extended across the river.

“That’s not just been a commercial success, but we are now seeing more than 10 million people using those crossings a year. We don’t see that would be any different here, this is an urban area and it would require that crossing potential.

“There’s a there’s a lot more concern nowadays about the environment and we’ve got the plan to go towards net-zero so a sustainable tramway is part of the solution, and it will certainly improve the environment for people in this area.

“At the moment, there’s a disconnect. This is an urban area. It’s an urban area on both sides of the river and local residents. Only about half of local households have access to a car, which means that a road doesn’t serve a purpose for crossing the river.”

Thames Gateway Tramlink research suggested as many as half of the people in Gravesend do not drive with those without cars making it up some of the 10 million anticipated tram users.

Any crossing would ease the pressure off the over-capacity and often congested Dartford Crossing which sees more than 50 million vehicles every year.

Plans for a new road crossing have already been in discussion for over a decade with development plans for The Lower Thames Crossing linking Kent and Essex needing to be decided by Government.

Matt Palmer, executive director of Lower Thames Crossing said “The route of the Lower Thames Crossing was carefully selected after exhaustive reviews of the feasible options, including rail, and it remains the best option to tackle the daily congestion problems at the Dartford Crossing”

“It will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London and cut traffic using the Dartford Crossing by 13 million vehicles a year, making a significant difference to congestion, which impacts tens of millions of people every year.”

“Almost half of the traffic which uses the Dartford Crossing are goods vehicles and new road crossing is vital to help the road network to cope with growing freight demands.”

“Dartford Crossing simply can’t cope with the volumes of traffic using it and the Lower Thames Crossing will change that, not only reducing traffic by 22 per cent but also by cutting the number of incidents, which happen almost daily and cause even more delays.”

Image source: Thames Gateway Tramlink

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