Published: 17:26, 18 February 2021
| Updated: 11:52, 19 February 2021
Plans to connect Kent and Essex via tram could be the "secret ingredient" to get a multi-billion pound theme park on the right track with residents, it has been claimed.
The £2.5bn scheme has been accepted for consideration and the review process is expected to take between a year and 18 months.
A major sticking point for Dartford residents since 2012 – when the project was first announced – has been transport and any added impact on highways and bus services.
But promoters behind plans for a tram linking Kent with Essex believe they may have the solution.
The KenEx tram link project is bidding to open a tram running under the Thames from Swanscombe to Grays with a timetable of delivery similar to the Lower Thames Crossing.
It believes the thousands of projected daily visitors to the Resort may be better served by track than road.
Former Kent Arriva boss Oliver Monahan, has backed the tram proposals, and believes linking up with the entertainment resort would be a"game changer".
The transport consultant said: "Transport to theme parks and large event sites is always difficult to manage as the ability to move large numbers of people, often thousands, at once will be critical.
"The local transport network must be geared towards moving huge amounts of people quickly and easily with loading and unloading and access to the transport interchange the key levers for success.
"To get 10,000 people an hour at speed to or from the theme park whilst avoiding disruption to residents mean that all modes of transport will need to work together to create a unified transport network."
He added: "Moving 50% plus of that demand onto tracks and away from roads could be the secret ingredient for the London Resort theme park to get lots of people to site whilst keeping their neighbours both sides of the river happy at the same time".
The current entertainment resort plans feature a new access road to join up with the A2, rail links with Ebbsfleet International and a new jetty and ferry terminal for river traffic.
Crossrail is also considering proposals to extend the Elizabeth Line from London to Ebbsfleet, which would provide additional options for rail access.
But some local authorities have raised ongoing concerns about both rail and road provision.
Dartford council is supportive of the potential benefits of the Resort project including its claims to deliver thousands of local jobs – but when it comes to infrastructure it says the "devil is in the detail".
It has insisted workable solutions must be found to traffic issues and "real mitigations offered for the existing communities and natural environment".
This includes any impact on local bus services.
It is proposed that the main disembarkation station on the North Kent line will be Greenhithe Station, with the existing Fastrack service providing the final leg of the journey.
But the route between the station and the Resort takes the bus through the quiet neighbourhood of Ingress Park.
The council has urged theme park bosses to ensure the impact of the increased frequency of services on this area is fully assessed.
Managing director of the KenEx tram link project, Gordon Pratt believes the the tram link would deliver benefits for both the residents and the Resort.
He said: "The unique cross river KenEx tram project continues to progress towards bringing a high-quality transport mode which respects the environment.
"KenEx is in an ideal position to provide the necessary fast and regular connectivity needed by the exciting London Resort development.
"Providing a popular solution able to accommodate expected passenger flows, north Kent would benefit significantly from enhanced local transport opportunities, not just for the London Resort but also for local residents."
But the tram proposals have some hurdles of their own to clear first.
It still needs approval to start and those behind the scheme are continuing to work with local authorities to promote its benefits.
Last year London Resort liased with KenEx team service promoters to understand how the proposals could tie in with their plans.
It had no further comment to add when approached but has made clear previously its vision is not dependent on the tram project going ahead.
The entertainment resort, designated as a nationally significant infrastructure project, is now in the first phase of a lengthy planning process.
A section 56 notice has now been issued under the Planning Act, meaning "interested parties", are now invited to come forward and give their views as part of the assessment process.
Representations must be received by the Planning Inspectorate no later than March 31 2021.