An important new study looking at transport improvements to support growth and regeneration in the corridor between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet has just been launched called AW2E Connectivity transport study.
Funded by the Ministry for Housing and Local Government (MHCLG), who have pledged up to £4.85m, the work will be overseen by the AW2E Partnership comprising Kent County Council, the boroughs of Bexley, Dartford and Gravesham, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, The Thames Gateway Kent Partnership, the Greater London Authority and Network Rail.
These organisations have been working since 2015 on proposals to improve transport links within the sub region to support much needed new homes and jobs and more sustainable travel patterns.
In June 2018 the Partnership secured the backing of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission.
In response to the Growth Commission’s report, MHCLG committed funding to explore and build a business case for enhancing transport links in the area subject to suitable housing ambition.
Since January, the Partnership has been engaging with government to develop the detailed scope of the study and procure the delivery team.
All the main consultants are now in place and are about to launch a broad programme of research and analysis to detail the transport and development challenges within the area, identify possible transport improvement options, understand how these options can support further housing and jobs growth both within the study area and beyond and consider what potential mechanisms could help fund any improvements.
The work will include analysis of a range of transport interventions, engagement with local stakeholders and two phases of public consultation, later this year with statutory stakeholders and a public consultation in Summer 2021.
KCC Leader, Roger Gough said: “Kent County Council is pleased to be part of this exciting partnership study and will be inputting into the masterplanning for this strategic corridor.
“We will also be helping review all potential transport options in an options appraisal including the existing successful Fastrack BRT scheme in Ebbsfleet & the need for modal shift away from car ownership to zero emissions public transport.”
Councillor Teresa O’Neill, Leader of the London Borough of Bexley and Chairman of the Partnerships Local Authority Board said: “This is a really exciting moment for all those who have been pushing for improved public transport in this area and across the Thames Estuary for so long.
“We know that to get good growth you need to better connect people to jobs and services both locally and in the wider area.
“This study is a big step forward in understanding how we do that in a deliverable way that makes sense in a post Covid 19 world.”
She went on to say, “There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment about the future of public transport and how people are likely to work and use cities.
“However, we are clear that there remains an imperative to bring forward new, high quality homes and jobs which can be accessed in safe, sustainable ways.
“This study will put the partnership in an excellent position to meet those challenges within the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet corridor, for the benefit of local residents and businesses as well as the regional and national economy.”
Lead consultants in the study will be Atkins/Jacobs who will undertake the transport and growth analysis and KPMG who will consider funding and finance options for any scheme.
Ellis Walker, Client Director at Atkins, said: “Transport continues to be a key enabler for regional growth, and the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet Connectivity Study is a great opportunity to help secure a bright and exciting future for the region.
“Our team of experts at Atkins and Jacobs bring significant experience from other transport schemes and a wealth of local knowledge to help the region understand and unlock the potential of local transport investment.”
Ian Clarke, engagement lead at KPMG, added: “The key to making a strong case to government for new transport improvements is to prove that they are essential in unlocking real benefits within the wider area, and that a proportion of these benefits can be captured fairly over time to help fund the scheme. In that way everyone wins.
“Our team has been at the forefront of work on developing innovative funding and financing mechanisms that relate to a broad range of beneficiary groups and engaging with local and regional government to deliver them.”
The study is programmed to last approximately 15 months, due to end in Autumn 2021