Rapid ‘trackless tram’ transit solution lacks vision; plans ignore infrastructure deficit

The consultation document – EB079 – Rapid Transport System for North Essex – refers to the delivery of a new Rapid Transport System (RTS) that must be “frequent in service to remain commercially viable” as well as “fast and reliable”.

Download the EB079 document

Viewing the document EB079, illustrations can be found of what appears to be preferred routes serving the west to east new towns, from to the west of Colchester outside of Marks Tey to the east of Colchester, near Greenstead and the University of Essex.

My understanding is funding has been allocated for a new A12 link road on the east of Colchester to help alleviate traffic flow along the Cowdray Avenue corridor, with a large provision of funding allocated to a dedicated bus lane to help deliver the RTS strategy, on key targets of being frequent, fast and reliable.

Developing an RTS route where the landscape allows for complete restructuring of infrastructure may well be possible, especially as funding has been announced for the scheme, in areas such as east Colchester near the proposed new town development.

However, my immediate concern is for the west Colchester development, with a planned route for the RTS to travel from the newly proposed westerly new town through existing infrastructure onwards towards the east of Colchester.

Areas of Marks Tey, Stanway and Lexden earmarked for the new RTS route include the delivery of a frequent, fast and reliable service along existing road networks, those direct routes that are key conduits between not only traffic flowing from the east of Colchester, but also the south where a lack of southern-bypass to connect to the existing A12 and A120 motorway networks exist.

By the delivery date of this proposed RTS scheme, and presuming no southern link road is built (no plans mentioned at this time), areas such as Stanway and Marks Tey will see an unprecedented amount of traffic flowing from there own local areas as well as the southern side of Colchester, as commuters find there way to transit to employment, schools and retailing.

Presenting a challenging RTS scheme that must deliver a frequent, fast and reliable service to be “viable to operate” would seem hugely unlikely given the severe lack of existing infrastructure serving today’s traffic movements, let alone the additional flow of more than 50,000 people as a result of the western new town, proposed to be built less than three miles from the border of Stanway.

The vision of a trackless-tram is just that, a vision, with no more realism attached to the proposal to deliver a service that “cannot be impeded by traffic” than perhaps the Colchester mainline being replaced by an untested futuristic Hyperloop system.

Delivery of more than 20,000 houses in the west of Colchester will create a borderless ‘commuters-town’, ultimately merging Braintree with Colchester. With no plans to increase capacity on the Norwich to London main line, the RTS appears to have been presented as the magic solution to keep Essex moving.

Having lived in Essex all my life, recent over-development in Colchester without infrastructure spending has attributed to an absolutely dire road and disconnected cycleway network, unable to keep up with demands of today’s society.

From road haulage, to parcel delivery to commuting and the school run, this area is grossly already over developed and is crying out for infrastructure upgrades today, not tomorrow. Investment that must be implemented before any plans move forward of the removal of more of our road network for the delivery of a what can only be described as a flawed RTS system.