Kenex Proposing Tramway Line Connecting North Kent and Essex
Kenex is proposing a tramway line connecting North Kent and Essex. The 600-million-pound project has enthusiastic support by several major names but has generated opposition by environmentalists. Let’s look at the details of the proposal and the arguments on both sides.
The privately-owned tram system would require a tunnel under the Thames River and is expected to cost around £600 million. The project promises to reduce congestion at the current river crossing that supports around 50-100 million crossings per year.
Thames Transit would link Bluewater in North Kent to Dartford and Grays in Essex. The project is expected to relieve pressure on Dartford Crossing, which is heavily congested. The tram line has been proposed because public transit to date only reduces road traffic by about 1%. Green Party members have said the new crossing would reduce around 14% of traffic at the Dartford Crossing.
The new tram line project is separate from the £10 million dedicated to local road improvements; contractors can bid on these projects with help from companies like Executive Compass.
Keith Kelly, a member of the Dartford Borough Council’s transport and infrastructure cabinet, welcomes any project that promises to relieve traffic and the poor air quality in Gravesham, Thurrock, and Dartford.
Professor Lewis Lesley, a traffic and congestion expert, says the tram line is one of the best ways to reduce congestion and pollution. He says that trams attract far more riders than buses. The ability to take the tram to the Ebbsfleet railways station would lead to far more people using the train to reach the rest of Britain instead of traveling by car.
Transport campaigner James Willis has come out for the project. Mr. Willis and Mr. Pratt, the financial accountant who helped develop the Brighton Main Line Two, have been meeting with local governments to generate support for the project.
The project is seen by supporters as a necessity because it can be built soon. In contrast, the billion pound Lower Thames Crossing isn’t expected to be completed for a decade, though it is said to improve capacity for people heading over the Thames by 70%.
The bus service between Kent and Essex is slow and limited. Opposition to the private tram system says it wouldn’t be worth the £600 million cost while impacting the £60 million revenue generated by the crossing. Green Party members say that a public transit system would cost 10% as much while carrying 5% to 10% of the total traffic, far more than public transit does today.
They want to see more public transit options like natural gas powered or electric buses, more ferries, and frankly any other potential options to link Essex and Kent.
Building the tram line will move people out of cars and into public transit, whether heading into Essex or moving on to London. This project will reduce congestion immediately and will not be rendered obsolete by the eventual completion of the Lower Thames Crossing. Opponents want to see the money invested in more public transit now, though buses take only 1% of those crossing the river today.