Published: 15:15, 30 July 2021
| Updated: 15:48, 30 July 2021
Options for extending Crossrail and other major rail services into Kent have been whittled down to three main choices.
It follows a public consultation held earlier this year on plans to extend London's Elizabeth line beyond Abbey Wood towards Ebbsfleet and into the county.
The C2E Partnership, which includes both Dartford and Gravesham councils, was set up in 2016 with a view to making journeys by public transport quicker and reduce the need for trips by car.
It proposed five options for delivering faster transport services connecting Kent's garden city and Eurostar portal to the two towns.
More than 1,000 people responded to the initial consultation with an overwhelming majority agreeing the extension and rail improvements identified were needed.
Two options have now been axed including a proposal to extend "Elizabeth line services to Dartford on segregated tracks at 12 trains per hour, with a further extension of six trains per hour to Northfleet”.
The remaining three options set out a mix of train extensions and bus connections to choose from.
The first option provides for an extension of the Elizabeth Line from Abbey Wood to Northfleet/Ebbsfleet and Gravesend, sharing the existing tracks with National Rail services.
Another idea is to draw out Crossrail from south east London to Dartford using new dedicated tracks built next to the existing North Kent line, with increased rail service frequency between Dartford and Northfleet.
A third option consists of improving the National Rail service between Abbey Wood and Northfleet, combined with a new Bus Rapid Transit service.
This would connect to the existing Fastrack buses running between the south east London station and Ebbsfleet, and tying in with the stations darted along the North Kent line.
A second consultation has now been launched.
Kent County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, David Brazier said: “This is an opportunity for residents and businesses to give their views on how important improved public transport links are to them and can demonstrate to government how important new public transport links are to the future of this area”.
Gravesham and Dartford council leaders John Burden and Jeremy Kite have long called for Crossrail to be extended into North Kent.
Both have urged residents to get involved in the latest round of consultation and have their say.
Cllr Kite said: “Dartford council is committed to working with partner authorities to improve transport links and Crossrail has the potential to significantly benefit the area.
“This consultation will help the Crossrail team understand the views of our residents and businesses and so we would urge as many people as possible to have their say.”
Likewise his counterpart at Gravesham council, Cllr John Burden said extending Crossrail to Gravesend made sense but needed to be right for everyone.
He said: “Along with our neighbours in Dartford and Bexley, we have been involved in conversations with government over the possible extension for some time and those discussions continue.
“The conditions for any extension have to be right for all parties, and we hope to have continued, constructive dialogue in the coming months.
“In the meantime, I would encourage any Gravesham residents or businesses with an interest in the project to contribute to the latest round of consultation.”
Kent is currently the only one of the Home Counties not served by Crossrail 1 or 2, known as the Elizabeth Line, on the London Underground map.
Early plans for the £18bn rail project, which was originally due to open in 2018, had included running the line out towards Gravesend.
But this was later curbed and a later review recommended instead stopping at Abbey Wood.
Kent County Council said in its draft Rail strategy, published last year, that an Elizabeth Line extension to Ebbsfleet was "unlikely" this decade.
In the same document it went on to explain how it could be contingent on the London Resort theme park proposals on the Swanscombe Peninsula getting the go ahead.
It said a "substantial contribution" could be asked for to support the local transport infrastructure needed.
A business case based on the latest shortlist of options will be submitted to central government in Autumn 2021.
The latest round of consultation closes on September 3.
Full details on the options proposed can be found here.