Thames Gateway Tramlink

KenEx tram tunnel under the Thames promises Estuary region boost

Ambitions to build a tram tunnel beneath the River Thames and provide a light rail link between south Essex and north Kent could be realised within 10 years, according to the scheme’s promoter.

“Our vision is to support the development of an integrated transport system within the Estuary area,” says Thames Gateway Tramlink’s managing director Gordon Pratt. “The tramway will provide vital links between rail and bus hubs (including Fastrack), as well as employment and leisure areas in a sustainable, socially inclusive and non- polluting way.”

The KenEx proposal would initially link Purfleet and the Lakeside Regional Shopping Centre in Essex with Ebbsfleet and Gravesend in Kent. Extensions towards Basildon and Canvey Island to the north of the river may come later. The crossing of the Thames would connect Grays to the north with the Swanscombe Peninsula which is to the south and east of the Dartford Crossing.

Construction of the route would involve building a 1.2km long immersed tube tunnel, similar to those currently being built between Denmark and Germany, and in the Netherlands.

“We see the initial scheme as being the catalyst for local economic development and social mobility, while increasing inclusive transport options,” Gordon says. “Rather than the Thames being a barrier, it would become something you rapidly cross on the tram.”

Keen interest has already been shown in extending the system to Canvey Island. The island is disconnected from opportunities and is a location where a suitable access road is considered inappropriate. This is seen as an opportunity for a tram and cycle/pedestrian routes similar to those incorporated into the Helsinki tram system and the proposals at Uppsala for example.

The project is currently estimated at around £1 billion and is progressing towards a Full Business Case.

It is worth making a cost comparison with the Lower Thames Road Crossing proposals which is currently with the Planning Inspectorate. This road project has an estimated cost in excess of £10 billion and, unlike the tramway, will not be available to those without access to a vehicle. The £10 billion + price tag excludes ancillary road upgrades.

As concerns over car congestion and emissions grow, the resurgence of tramways draws impetus from the need for cleaner, less expensive, more energy efficient and a less waste producing transport option.

Recording of the Thames Gateway Tram and Ferry Discussion Forum live stream