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Innovative tram system could link Kent to Essex

By Chris Hunter

Experts have confirmed it would be feasible to build a new tram link between Kent and Essex using a tunnel built in sections and sunk into the Thames.

Representatives from the KenEx Thames Transit scheme and Arriva buses met with Kent councillors at a presentation business breakfast, which saw experts put forward the arguments for the plan.

If constructed the new system would link Grays in Essex to Ebbsfleet and Bluewater, while an intersecting line would connect Gravesend to Dartford, and those behind the plan say it would help provide an "environmentally sound, efficient solution" to ease congestion around the Dartford crossing and North Kent.

An artist's impression of the Kenex tram station (9788428)
An artist's impression of the Kenex tram station (9788428)

If given the go ahead, the plan would see blocks of a tunnel built off site, then floated down the Thames and sunk into position.

Gordon Pratt, managing director of Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd said the time was right to be looking at environmentally-friendly transport solutions.

“Public and Government concern about air pollution and climate change is today very much in the news," he said. "The KenEx team are very proud to be part of the solution.

The layout of the proposed Kenex Tram system. (9786056)
The layout of the proposed Kenex Tram system. (9786056)

"Having now had our tunnel feasibility for a sustainable transport solution under the Thames confirmed by international experts we are very pleased that another significant step forward has been achieved by the project.

"By following many other countries in not relying on a road tunnel KenEx can lower pollution and provide an efficient, inclusive and sustainable rapid transport solution for all.”

Representatives of immersed tunnel experts, COWI, have also visited the site of the proposed link last month to investigate the feasibility of a tunnel.

Representatives from Kenex and Arriva met with councillors to discuss plans for the new tram system (9787439)
Representatives from Kenex and Arriva met with councillors to discuss plans for the new tram system (9787439)

COWI director Damian McGirr, said: “Based on present knowledge, construction of a new river crossing at the proposed location as an immersed tunnel appears feasible.

"When comparing with recently constructed immersed tunnels in Denmark (Copenhagen, Øresund), Sweden (Stockholm, Söderström and Gothenburg, Marieholm) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Metro North-South Line), the site conditions for the KenEx tram appear well suited for an immersed tunnel.

"Ground conditions, environmental impact and navigational aspects, will of course influence the specific details around tunnel construction.

"However, from our initial observations during the site visit recently, we would expect that these can be addressed by suitable planning, design and construction.

"We consider that the proposal has great merit and is certainly feasible".

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend

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