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Bean Road tunnel plan edges closer

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 July 2019

The tunnel would mean garden city residents could get the bus to Bluewater shopping centre. Picture: Steve Poston

The tunnel would mean garden city residents could get the bus to Bluewater shopping centre. Picture: Steve Poston

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A multi-million pound tunnel linking the new Ebbsfleet Garden City to Bluewater shopping centre could to be built in the near future.

Elected members of Kent County Council (KCC) unanimously endorsed a proposal on Tuesday, July 16 to create a £12.2m tunnel linking a new Fastrack bus route from the estate to Bluewater.

The new tunnel, which would run under Bean Road, would go directly into Bluewater and the shopping centre's bus interchange and connect it to the 6,250 homes development at Eastern Quarry, now known as Whitecliffe.

Cllr Mike Whiting, cabinet member for highways, said it would be an "exciting" step in the transformation of public transport in North Kent.

During the environment and transport cabinet meeting, he told colleagues: "The new tunnel can provide fantastic and better links for new residents and existing communities in Gravesham and Dartford."

The proposal comes after investigations into the potential use of two existing haulage tunnels, previously used during the construction of Bluewater during the 1990s, found it would be more cost effective to construct a new tunnel.

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Supporters of the scheme have said the Fastrack Bean Road tunnel will form a "vital component" for the expansion of Fastrack's bus network and encourage locals to use public transport.

A road network will link to the existing Hedge End roundabout on Bean Road at the northern edge of Bluewater.

The proposed route would also incorporate a footpath and cycleway linking Bluewater and the new development, which is bordered by Bean Road to one side and Ebbsfleet International on the other.

Cllr Michael Payne, deputy cabinet member for highways, said it would encourage people to move away from using cars.

The scheme will still require approval from the planning committee in October.

If approved, construction of the new tunnel is expected to start from next year. A final date for the completion of the project has yet to be revealed.

The £12.2m scheme is being "project managed" by Kent County Council, but investment funding is being provided by Ebbsfleet Development Coporation (EDC) and Bluewater.

Bosses at Bluewater have pledged £4m for the proposal while Ebbsfleet Development will invest around £7.5m, which will go towards the construction and maintenance cost of the Bean Road tunnel.

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