'It's a perfect match' - Tram team use football derby to highlight benefits of proposed cross Thames link

By Nub News Reporter

31st Mar 2024 | Local News

The proposed tram scheme will link both sides of the Thames.
The proposed tram scheme will link both sides of the Thames.

ON the day before the Tilbury to Gravesend ferry ran for the last time, the team behind the proposed KenEx Tram link between Essex and Kent via a tunnel between Grays and Gravesend, used the derby Vanarama National League clash between Ebbsfleet and Southend United to promote the scheme.

The ferry ran for the last time on Saturday (30 March) after its operators, Jetstream, pulled out of their contract with Kent County and Thurrock councils and 24 hours earlier KenEx - a collaboration of businessmen, engineers and financiers seeking to create a new integrated transport system – used the derby between Essex and Kent sides at the Kuflink Stadium to highlight the benefits of a tram system.

And on Saturday members of the KenEx team joined hundreds of members of the public who travelled across the Thames on the historic river crossing, hoping that in the near future they will be able to provide an alternative for passengers.

Looking back on the derby clash, an entertaining affair that drew more than 4,000 supporters and ended 1-1, KenEx MD Gordon Pratt said: "KenEx Tram were proud sponsors of the fixture.

"As promoters of better cross river connectivity this was a key event to strengthen cross river community ties and promote the sustainable and integrated tram solution.

KenEx MD Gordon Pratt (foiurth from right) with Alex Mills, Kenex team member James Willis and Josh Wright at the pre-match presentation.

"Ebbsfleet captain Josh Wright, the younger brother of TOWIE stars Mark and Jess Wright and a man with strong Essex connections, was Player of the Match and the general feeling was that the final score of 1-1 seemed fair.

"Sadly the loss of the day was seeing, at the weekend, the end of the cross river Tilbury – Gravesend ferry service.

"A blow for supporters and many others reliant on the service. The team at KenEx also see the loss of the ferry as an issue.

"It has been proven that the improvement of cross river public transport will benefit all modes and that the introduction of a cross river tram could have boosted existing ferry services."

Among guests of KenEx at the match, who included local councillors from both sides of the river, was local environment campaigner Martin Wilson, a member of the recently-formed 'Friends of the KenEx Tram' group.

He said: "We have formed as we need our political leaders, locally and nationally to back public transport across the Thames like KenEx Tram. The ferry ending this weekend is a complete disaster.

Fans of the ferry enjoyed a final Jetstream crossing on Saturday

"It's tragic the Tilbury to Gravesend ferry is suspended and we need our local authorities on both sides of the river to act.

"The integration of public transport such as KenEx tram and Kent County Council's FastTrack bus with other forms of public transport and active travel projects delivers great benefits.

Alex Hills made one of the last ferry crossings on Saturday.

Alex Hills of CPRE (The Countryside Charity) added: "It's a proven fact that building new roads can increase congestion, yet good public transport such as ferry and trams reduce traffic congestion, enable economic growth, and reduce pollution.

"This is why projects like KenEx need to be the future of transport development as trams reduce traffic congestion, enable economic growth, and reduce pollution. Integrating tram projects with other forms of public transport and active travel projects deliver even greater benefits."

Part of the reason why KenEx chose the match to raise their profile was because of the difficulties faced by away supporters getting from one side of the Thames to the other, with very limited public transport options.

One Southend supporter attending the match said: "We had to travel by car via a congested Dartford crossing or make the choice of a £30 multiple train journey into London and back out.

"Myself and friends really wanted to be able to use public transport to get to games and had it been running (the ferry did not run on Good Friday) would have used it.

"We need decision makers to act on the restoration of the Tilbury to Gravesend ferry.

"And to support the KenEx tram scheme which would clearly boost the economy and reduce congestion and pollution."

The KenEx proposal would initially connect Dartford, Swanscombe, Gravesend, Ebbsfleet International and Grays with expansion to follow linking East Thurrock and then possibly Basildon and Canvey Island.

Gordon Pratt presents the Player of the Match award to Josh Wright after being introduced by Ebbsfleet manager Danny Searle.

Mr Pratt, who presented the Player of the Match award at the post match reception when Ebbsfleet CEO Damian Irvine praised the innovative tram proposal, added: "Our aim is to provide sustainable public transport infrastructure that supports residential developments either side of the Thames with excellent connections to places of work, recreation, retail and health facilities – key enablers for estuary growth expected over the next 30 years.

"We fully support the UK Government target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050."


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