First planning stage starts on Hertfordshire to Essex Rapid Transit

Hertfordshire County Council has launched the first planning stage for its Hertfordshire to Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) project.

The suggestion is that HERT would run from Hemel Hempstead to Stansted Airport. The county council is developing a proposal for a MRT system to run along the A414 corridor as part of a strategy to improve travel between the east and west of the county.

The council said that HERT will improve the passenger transport network through an accessible, reliable and affordable east-west system. The HERT will connect people to where they live, work and visit across both counties in a more environmentally friendly way and will support our local economies.

The corridor is critical in supporting current and future travel across Hertfordshire and into Essex, but it already experiences significant traffic congestion and poor journey time reliability, said the council.

It said it was supporting the District and Borough Councils in planning for more than 100,000 new homes and more than 100,000 new jobs to meet our needs over the next 15 years, which means there will be further demand on our schools, health and social care and our already congested road and rail network. Achieving the vision for our future requires an inclusive and sustainable passenger transport system that puts people first.

Working with District and Borough Councils we created an A414 Corridor Strategy. As part of this, a mass rapid transit system was identified as being fundamental to unlocking greener and more efficient travel across the A414 corridor. We are now moving forward and exploring the options, with the aim of submitting a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for the Hertfordshire section of the scheme to the Department for Transport (DfT) in Spring 2022, said the council.

The three key ambitions that the HERT is looking to achieve are delivering jobs and economic growth, protecting and improving the environment and supporting vibrant communities. The objectives under each of these ambitions are below:

Delivering jobs and economic growth

  • Supporting the significant long-term planned growth in the county by maximising sustainable connectivity between new and existing communities and job opportunities.
  • Supporting the realisation of our longer-term economic growth ambitions by creating a future travel system that supports inclusive growth by creating a new strategic east-west public transport spine.
  • Keeping the county moving by providing a more attractive alternative for motor vehicle users, which is integrated into the wider transport system and in line with our sustainable transport strategy.
  • Ensuring that we are at the forefront of new emerging MRT technologies to stimulate economic growth.

Protecting and Improving our environment

  • Creating a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable transport network by reducing the impacts of traffic congestion pollution, improving air quality and creating attractive walking and cycling travel opportunities in more pleasant streets.
  • Developing a future-ready transport system, which minimises energy consumption whilst maximising the use of technology and innovation to support the county’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Supporting vibrant communities

  • Supporting productive places and town centre viability in the county by creating reliable and more efficient inter-urban connections to where people live, work and visit.
  • Providing an affordable and inclusive transport system, that is financially sustainable.
  • Improved health, wellbeing and quality of life through safe, accessible and convenient services that link to walking and cycling connections.

“We are in the early stage of developing proposals on the HERT and have a number of steps to go through before it can be built. We will be consulting the public at each stage, with ongoing stakeholder engagement throughout the duration of the scheme. We will engage with local communities, civic groups, businesses and other organisations across the county to ensure the widest possible spread of voices is heard during this process,” said the council.

It is currently creating the Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for the project to submit to government. This will explore what benefits the HERT could provide, the different options available and potential costs. The aim of the document is to secure funding to develop the project further. No decision has yet been made on the exact route of the system, the type of vehicle or the stations the HERT will serve.

In Autumn 2021 It will be undertaking public engagement to ask for feedback on:

  • The principles of the HERT including the vision of what we want to achieve and its key features.
  • The need and benefits of the HERT
  • Current travel behaviours of people in Hertfordshire and West Essex and the possible trips that could be made using the HERT
  • The towns and key transport interchanges the HERT could serve within an east-west corridor from Hemel Hempstead and West Watford to Harlow.
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