£800 million Kent Essex tramline under the River Thames could launch by 2030

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

A tram service under the River Thames linking Kent and Essex would ease pressure off the Dartford Crossing and provide a greener alternative to the proposed Lower Thames road crossing.

That’s the belief of those behind the ambitious Kenex tram blueprint for a two-track 1.2 kilometre tunnel being assessed by the Government.

Trams would run every 3-4 minutes, initially between Purfleet-on-Thames and Grays in Essex to Ebbsfleet, Northfleet and Gravesend with the majority of the track above ground.

Further extensions would be see the line extended to Basildon and Canvey Island while on the Kent side the tramway would link up to bus services connecting people to Bluewater shopping centre and Darent Valley Hospital.

  • Watch: a map of where the Kenex tram would run

Gordon Pratt, Managing Director from Thames Gateway Tram Ltd believes the tramline has a potential for 10 million customers every year with 2030 the target date to get the service up and running,

"We've undertaken our work to establish the potential demand and we can look to other examples further in towards London at Lewisham and Woolwich, where the Docklands Light Railway has been extended across the river.

"That’s not just been a commercial success, but we are now see more than 10 million people using those crossings a year. We don’t see that would be any different here, this is an urban area and it would require that crossing potential.

Thames Gateway Tram say as many as half the people in Gravesend do not drive with those without cars making it up some of the 10 million anticipated tram users.

The proposed tram line in numbers

Gordon says, "There's a there's a lot more concern nowadays about the environment and we've got the plan to go towards net zero so a sustainable tramway is part of the solution, and it will certainly improve the environment for people in this area.

"At the moment, there's a disconnect. This is an urban area. It's an urban area on both sides of the river and local residents. Only about half of local households have access to a car, which means that a road doesn't doesn't serve a purpose for crossing the river."

Any crossing would ease pressure off the over-capacity and often congested Dartford Crossing which sees more than 50 million vehicles every year.

  • Watch: Simon Johnson from Thames Gateway Tramlink says building a tram tunnel underneath the River Thames is possible

Plans for a new road crossing have been in constructions for over a decade with development plans for The Lower Thames Crossing linking Kent and Essex needing to be decide by Government.

Its Executive Director believes the project is the only feasible way to really get a grip of the problems at Dartford.

“The route of the Lower Thames Crossing was carefully selected after exhaustive reviews of the feasible options, including rail, and it remains the best option to tackle the daily congestion problems at the Dartford Crossing", says Matt Palmer.

"It will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London and cut traffic using the Dartford Crossing by 13 million vehicles a year, making a significant difference to congestion, which impact tens of millions of people every year."

Thousands of drivers use the QEII Bridge to make the Dartford Crossing every day.

"Almost half of the traffic which uses the Dartford Crossing are goods vehicles and new road crossing is vital to help the road network to cope with growing freight demands."

"Dartford Crossing simply can’t cope with the volumes of traffic using it and the Lower Thames Crossing will change that, not only reducing by traffic by 22 per cent but also by cutting the number of incidents, which happen almost daily and cause even more delays."

Artist's impression of the Lower Thames Crossing

Would a tram system be enough to take pressure off the Dartford crossing?

Tim Aker from the Federation of Small Businesses believes a tram system on its own will not be enough to deal with the traffic problems at Dartford.

"It's not really an alternative. Much of the traffic going over the crossing goes on to the M25 and beyond.

"A tram would be good for the hospitality sectors in Dartford and Gravesend, but it's not an alternative.

"The one thing we don't want is any more planning, bits of tinsel and baubles to the Christmas tree that would topple it and delay it. We can't afford delays any more. The Lower Thames Crossing needs to happen."The Department say it's considering next steps for the project with a decision on whether or not it will receive funding or not anticipated later this year.