According to news reports, there are plans for a DLR style service linking up several parts of Essex. The reports suggest that a £93 million south Essex electric rail service could link the towns of Brentwood, Basildon, Grays, Southend and Southend Airport.

That’s a lot of railway for not a lot of money.

It’s taken a bit of hunting to find a copy (and emails ignored), but the report by the Association of South Essex Local Authorities, in fact, gives a very different picture of what’s being planned.

What it actually calls for is a “rapid transport network” that is designed to “provide direct, high frequency, inter-urban links between the key public transport hubs”

The service would aim to offer a minimum frequency of 6 per hour during the three-hour morning and evening peak periods, not less than 3ph at other times and average journey times of circa 20-25 minutes.

An initial £30 million is expected for the first phase, with a further outlay of £63 million over five years.

The key thing to note is that nowhere in the report does the rapid transport network get described as a railway service, of any sort. In fact, the report doesn’t say a word about what the service could be.

What’s much more likely is improvements to roads to provide what is termed a “bus rapid transit” service — a way of boosting capacity on bus networks, but much more importantly, improving their reliability, often by giving them dedicated bus lanes that cannot be blocked by other road traffic.

While a railway offers many more benefits than a rapid bus network, it also costs considerably more to build. A rapid bus network can be bolted onto the existing road infrastructure by redeveloping junctions and adding dedicated lanes where needed.

It’s also much more likely to fit into a £93 million budget.

It’s unlikely to be trams, as such a service would still smash through that budget (the modest extension of the London trams to Sutton is budgeted at £330 million), while the smaller DLR extension along existing railways to Stratford International in 2008 came in at £238 million.

Sadly, the chance of a DLR style network in Essex linking up four such distantly spaced towns for £93 million is not going to happen.

However, a rapid bus network is a good, reliable, and affordable way of linking towns, and the villages between, and offers not just an alternative to the car for car owners, but opens up many more work and social opportunities for people who cant afford to buy a car.


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  1. I guess the issue with a Brentwood to Southend “DLR” joined by Grays to Pitsea branch would be finding somewhere to stick another set of rails for them to run on.

    There are quite long sections where the land-take for another single rail would be cheap, but then you’ve got to serve the stations with platforms at all the stations, that’s where the costs would add up.

    Also, the service would be very limited without extensive double-tracking.

    £93 might get you … some plans drawn up.

  2. Henry says:

    Well that’ll be £93m to take over the existing rail services, c2c styly

  3. Jon Jones says:

    I hope they speak to South Cambridgeshire council to see how not to purchase a busway.

  4. jason leahy says:

    Battery powered trams will be used in the future in Manchester and Bath Area Trams Association 3 weeks ago claimed hydrogen trams without overhead cables will reduce costs in Bath from £25 million/km for heavy trams to £7 million/km.In 2019 BRT or trackless trams in Essex was proposed linking Tendring Colchester border,West Tey and west of Braintree with a possible connection to Stansted but in May the planning inspector said only Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community line to potential eastern park and ride,university,main rail station,hospital and Colchester northern park and ride is deliverable in financial terms.Battery powered trackless trams which are in service in three cities in China,will likely be used for the Liverpool Paddington line,and considered for along the seafront between Hastings and St Leonards by Hastings Council 2018 (this will use very light trackless trams built by Severn Lamb,UK not Chinese CRRC ART) but to cut the cost from £4bn to £2bn the CAM (Cambridge Autonomous Metro) will now not use large multi-car trackless trams that need bigger tunnels and stations but small single car trackless trams

  5. Mike says:

    I will tell you one problem having lived in Thurrock all my life.. They don’t want to leave the bourgh. Thurrock wants nothing to do with London and providing transport links. We had up untill 2005 a half hour service to Romford.. Bus 373 but it was cut because they said not enough people use it.. Witch how they obtained there figures I hugely dispute. I really hope we get the transport links to London we deserve but I can’t see it happening anytime soon

    • ianvisits says:

      This isn’t about increasing the east/west links to/from London, but improving the north/south links within the County so that more local travel is possible.

  6. Gerry says:

    Hope it’s not another case of ‘Misguided, Bust’!

  7. Andrew Gwilt says:

    What like to extend the DLR to say like Southend-on-Sea. Did the District Line ever went to Southend and Shoeburyness.

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