Featured in the Future Transport London Newsletter January 2023
KenEx, the new sustainable tramway between North Kent and South Essex, is moving on to prepare a Full Business Case in 2023
There has been a sustainable river crossing connecting North Kent and South Essex for many hundreds of years. Previously carrying millions of passengers a year, within the last 60 years car centric planning assumptions have seen sustainable cross river services seriously degraded. Journey times have increased and the reliance on the car has brought the additional disbenefits of congestion, cost, pollution and the leaving behind of those unable or unwilling to drive.
Thus in many ways the River Thames at this location is more of a barrier than it was 60 years ago. However, the team behind the KenEx project, including a number of railway project professionals with successful projects already achieved, together with investors (without a car centric agenda), have identified a cost-effective proposal, not just to cross the river, but also to develop a comprehensive tramway of some 18 kilometres / 11 miles connecting Purfleet-on-Thames to Gravesend.
In developing the proposal, the team has listened carefully to many interested parties including environmental, cycling, local authorities, and developers.
The team see Purfleet-on Thames to Gravesend as a core proposal which could see additional routes added in time. After all it took Manchester Metrolink just 30 years to grow from nothing to a total route length of around 103 kilometres, and the Metrolink team have already been lobbied by politicians to look at new routes.
The proposal is part of an integrated and sustainable local transport solution and connectivity has been carefully thought through. This was one of the key requirements of the Department for Transport for the Outline Business Case stage. In North Kent this includes railway interchanges at Gravesend, Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International. The last will also benefit from the proposed Ebbsfleet Southern railway link which will halve the journey times between Bromley and Ebbsfleet when compared to undertaking the journey by car. In South Essex interchanges are proposed at Purfleet-on-Thames, Chafford Hundred Lakeside and Grays. There would be, of course, also key interchanges at various locations with buses, taxis and the local ferry.
With such good connectivity to existing public transport and by avoiding the need to take a detour into London for an eastward journey, the system will ensure more efficient and significantly faster journeys between areas of London, South Essex and North Kent creating a more cohesive and dynamic economic zone.
As for costs, the significantly lower costs of light rail per kilometre makes the business case for light rail much stronger when compared with roads, even before other positive factors are accounted for, such as cleaner air, greater energy efficiency, removal of road congestion, faster journey times, improved journey reliability and an improved urban realm.
The total cost for the proposed 18 kilometre initial length is currently estimated at £900 million which includes a cross river tunnel and urban realm improvements. This compares with the proposed Lower Thames Road Crossing which at an estimated £9 billion cost is about enough to build a comprehensive Manchester Metrolink, city sized, light rail system three times over.