‘Decision on Ebbsfleet tunnels offers a sustainable future’
The Thames estuary is being targeted for high levels of development and we can only hope that some of the proposals being mooted do not come to pass. One concept we should be promoting, however, is sustainable transport and here we feature a cross-county project that has found favour south of the river.
The KenEx cross-river project is being promoted by Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd, which is working with local stakeholders for “a clean, sustainable, economically generative step-change in local transport”. The KenEx team comprises transport, construction and business management professionals. The project has just completed its first successful funding round. Here is its latest press release.
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 cross-river 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.
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.
Gavin Cleary, Locate in Kent chief executive, said: “With millions being spent on improved public transport and infrastructure, Kent is set to reap the rewards over the next decade in attracting jobs, opportunities and growth.
“These projects will add to that sense of momentum, with improved links for communities on either side of the river a key part of plans to unlock the potential of the Thames estuary region as a major hub for growth industries in the UK.”
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.”