A report looking at transport upgrades across the southeast of England suggests that extending the Elizabeth line into Kent would cost around £3.2 billion. The report, by Transport for the South East (TfSE) also supports the proposal and looks at how it could be funded.
There have been a number of consultations about the scheme, and the councils along the route have decided to push for a scheme that would see 12 Elizabeth line trains per hour to Abbey Wood as now exists, then extended past there to offer 8 trains per hour to Northfleet, and 4 trains per hour extending to Gravesend.
If implemented, then the additional Elizabeth line trains would be sharing the existing North Kent line tracks with the Southeastern and Thameslink services.
An outline business case for the extension exists, funded by £4.8million in government support to investigate its viability. TfSE’s report is looking at a likely cost of the extension as ranging between £2.6 – £3.2 billion, if it is delivered between 2023 and 2028. That’s roughly double the original estimate of £1.5 billion, but the cost rose as more studies were carried out into the engineering challenges of the project.
As ever though, funding is the core issue.
The report suggests that a portion of the funding could come from existing central government schemes, such as those which pay for transport upgrades to unlock additional housing developments.
There’s the expectation that local developer funding and local contributions would be included — such as capturing some of the uplift in existing property prices in areas where transport upgrades are carried out.
The report also suggests that London taxpayers may pick up some of the cost, although the Mayor of London has previously ruled out funding the Kent upgrade, and at the moment, neither the GLA nor TfL are in a position of being able to fund something as expensive as this anyway.
The details of how to extend the Elizabeth line are part of a wider consultation by TfSE covering the whole of the southeast of England.
With a total capital cost of £45 billion over 27 years – about £1.5bn a year – they expect the investment to deliver an additional £4.1 billion a year for the economy by 2050. To put the £45 billion investment into context, Network Rail will be spending £48 billion over five years (2019-2024) on its existing network, and spends roughly the same every five years at the moment.
The plans would see around 80% of the investment spent on enhancing existing railways and roads, with the rest on building new infrastructure.
The report expects that if the full package were delivered, then there would be an additional 500,000 rail trips per day, 1.6 million bus/mass transit journeys per day, and take 4 million cars off the road each day across the southeast of England.
Although there’s always going to be people saying that transport investment isn’t needed anymore, because of working from home, ignoring that many people can’t work from home, the report also looks at how investment can improve rail freight by using capacity created by fewer passenger trains. There’s also a lot of focus on improving regional connections so that people don’t need to make long journeys because shorter direct routes don’t exist or are unreliable.
The full consultation is here.