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Councils work together for major north Kent improvements

The Fastrack bus service
The Fastrack bus service

by Alan Watkins

A revolutionary bus system is to be extended into Swale and Medway as part of a raft of improvements for north Kent.

Councils in the area have been given new powers to improve employment, skills, housing and transport.

They have agreed to extend the Fastrack transport system to Medway and Swale, increase the number of educationally-skilled people and cut carbon emissions.

It follows the signing of a new multi-area agreement by the council leaders of north Kent.

Speaking at The Bridge £500 million regeneration area in Dartford, the Communities Secretary John Denham this morning said: "Today's agreement will mean North Kent's five councils and partners will have more power locally to deliver jobs, training, welfare support and economic resilience for the region - helping to deliver 58,000 jobs and 52,000 new homes by 2026 as part of the wider growth of the Thames Gateway.

"The issues affecting people's lives don't stop neatly at local authorities' boundaries.

"MAAs are allowing councils to work together to mastermind regional solutions to meet the priorities and needs of their communities."

The targets agreed by Kent, Dartford, Gravesham, Medway and Swale councils are:

  • To deliver 58,000 jobs and 52,000 new homes by 2026
  • A 14 per cent increase (44,000 more people) in students with five GCSEs A* to C or higher (NVQ level 2) by 2014
  • A roll-out of bus rapid transit systems based on Kent Thameside's Fastrack model in Medway and Swale
  • The infrastructure to develop Ebbsfleet Valley, including upgrading the A2 Bean Junction and open links between Eastern Quarry and Bluewater
  • A promise to cut carbon emissions by 16.7 per cent through retrofitting thermal, energy and water efficiency measures in public and private sector homes.

What is Fastrack?

Two Fastrack services run between Dartford and Gravesend every six minutes.

They call at Bluewater, the local rail stations, the Darent Valley hospital and are the only vehicles allowed across most of The Bridge development.

Fastrack buses have priority at traffic lights, and serve developments where computers advise all home owners when the next Fastrack bus is due.

Two more routes have been planned as part of the development of Eastern Quarry.

Fastrack would be ideal for serving the A2 through Medway.

Routes to Hempstead Valley, St Mary's Island, Chattenden, Rochester Riverside and the Strood regeneration sites could be linked.

It would need reserved roads to serve the employment areas on the Hoo Peninsula.

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