Thurrock's connectivity benefits are set to be improved in a myriad of ways, connecting the borough by rail, road, air and river to markets across the globe. James Cracknell reports
When the Romans, Anglo- Saxons and Tudors chose the area now known as Thurrock for building settlements and fortifications, they saw the same potential as infrastructure planners do today. As an entry point into London – but also a destination in its own right – Thurrock boasts access to world-class transport routes. It is famously home to the Port of Tilbury, the capital’s principal dock and a major driver of investment ever since the advent of containerisation.
But the port is just one part of Thurrock's story. The M25 orbital motorway opened in the mid-1980s and was a key factor in the decision to build Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock later that same decade. The railway line between Southend and London Fenchurch Street, which stops at eight stations in the borough, also ensures the area remains an essential part of the commuter belt.
Then two international airports are within easy reach: London City Airport, a half-hour drive to the west, and London Southend Airport, roughly the same distance to the east. Such connections ensure Thurrock remains an attractive proposition for multinational businesses.
Network Rail recently named c2c, the operator of the railway through Thurrock, as providing the UK's most punctual train service.Almost 96% of trains on the route arrived on time during 2017, compared to the national average of 84%. The news followed a major boost to capacity between Thurrock and London at the start of last year, with the introduction by c2c of three double-length eight-carriage trains during peak hours.
Plans to improve rail services in Thurrock don’t end there, however. Crossrail 2 is the next major infrastructure project in the pipeline for London and ongoing discussions include the possibility of an east London branch of the £27 billion railway, that would terminate at Grays. The idea was first highlighted in a 2016 study by transport consultancy firm GHD, which was commissioned jointly by local councils in Hackney, Newham, Barking and Dagenham, and Essex.
This eastern phase of the new railway, which could be built by the 2030s, would reduce journey times from Thurrock into London and provide a direct link to highspeed services from Stratford International. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan threw his weight behind Crossrail 2 last year and the government has agreed to take the plans forward. A final decision on the route is due shortly.
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