Image: The heavily congested Dartford crossing (Dreamstime)
Politicians in the English county of Kent have been presented with plans to cut traffic and air pollution by building an underwater tram link between Kent and Essex under the River Thames.
Danish consulting engineer Cowi told Kent councillors that a proposal to submerge a prefabricated tunnel under the river had “great merit” and was “certainly feasible".
As done successfully in other countries, the tunnel would be built in sections offsite and floated into place.
Most of the tramline would be over ground, running from the Bluewater shopping mall in Kent and through Ebbsfleet before crossing the Thames to Grays in Essex.
Joining Cowi at the breakfast meeting were project backers Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd. (Kenex), and Arriva buses, website KentOnline reports.
They said the tramline would cut congestion around the Dartford Crossing further east, presently the last crossing over the Thames. The area is affected by some of the highest levels of pollution in the UK.
Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd.’s map of the proposed tunnel system
Gordon Pratt, managing director of Thames Gateway Tramlink, said the time was right to be looking at environment-friendly transport solutions.
“Having now had our tunnel feasibility … confirmed by international experts we are very pleased that another significant step forward has been achieved by the project,” he said.
“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.”
Damian McGirr, director of Danish consulting engineer Cowi, which has studied the proposals, 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, Sweden and the Netherlands, 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".