Have your say on plans for new transport link from Hemel and Watford to Harlow

Hertfordshire-Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) will improve the passenger transport network through an accessible, reliable and affordable east-west system

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 5:23 pm

Hertfordshire County Council is encouraging the public to have their say on a new transport link, connecting Hertfordshire to West Essex.

The council has launched a public engagement exercise, seeking feedback on its vision to reimagine the county’s transport network through a new east-west rapid transit link.

Hertfordshire residents are invited to explore a virtual exhibition, attend online events and complete an online survey about the proposed Hertfordshire to Essex Rapid Transit (HERT).

HERT launch CGI image

The HERT aims to deliver a step-change in the passenger transport network through an accessible, reliable and affordable mass transit system, connecting Watford and Hemel Hempstead in the west to Harlow (west Essex) in the east.

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Hertfordshire already experiences significant traffic congestion and poor journey time reliability due to the reliance on cars.

Over the next 15 years, there are plans for around 100,000 new jobs and up to 100,000 new homes across the county to meet local needs, which means there will be further demand on the already congested road and rail network.

The HERT will provide a new and sustainable cross-county transport system that encourages people out of their cars and on to a greener, convenient and more affordable public transport service.

A key feature of the HERT will be the creation of better links with bus services, walking and cycling routes, creating an integrated transport network with better access to the rail network and wider links to domestic and international airline travel at Luton and Stansted airports.

It will also unlock new job opportunities and provide businesses with greater access to skilled people in the county and beyond.

Hertfordshire County Council and Essex County Council will work closely together to ensure rapid and seamless journeys can be made across the entire network.

This is the first phase of public engagement on the scheme and the council is inviting feedback on its vision for HERT.

A virtual exhibition will be available online from today (November 18) to Friday, January 28, 2022 where participants can find out more about the scheme, attend one of the online exhibition events and share their views by completing the online survey.

Speaking at a briefing, county council leader Cllr Richard Roberts said the project was ‘a really important piece in the jigsaw puzzle of Hertfordshire’s future’.

He said: “Creating a cleaner, greener, healthier Hertfordshire, where everyone has the opportunity to live and work in thriving communities, is central to our plans for the future of the county.

“To deliver this vision for Hertfordshire, we must have the transport network to support it; an affordable, sustainable network that will help reduce our carbon footprint by encouraging people out of their cars and connect our communities like never before.

“To make our ambition a success, it first and foremost must meet the needs of the people of Hertfordshire, which is why I would encourage all residents to take part in the consultation to help shape the development of HERT.”

With a focus of sustainable transport, the county council’s head of highways implementation and strategy Richard Thacker stressed that the project would support the county as a whole.

It would, he said, be ‘affordable, accessible and inclusive’ and would provide a ‘viable alternative’ to car use – providing an opportunity for people to think and do things differently

With the project still at an ‘early’ stage, no exact routes have been determined for the Hertfordshire to Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) service – although it would broadly follow the A414 ‘corridor’.

Nor is it known whether it would be run with buses, trams or other vehicles – with officials waiting to see how technology will develop.

But at the media briefing it was said that the vehicles would be modern comfortable and spacious – easy to use for all passengers, with accessible step-free access and wide aisles.

They would be zero emission vehicles and they would have digital connectivity for ‘productive’ journeys.

There would be fewer stops than on a conventional bus service, to ensure faster journey times.

And there would be sections of road where the HERT vehicles would be segregated – either by increasing the width of the road network or reducing the number of existing carriageways for existing traffic.

In the short term, says Mr Thacker, that could create ‘an element of pain’ for general traffic until the balance shifted more towards the HERT and the network started to ‘rebalance’.

But he stressed that if no action was taken congestion would get worse.

“If we don’t do anything congestion is going to get worse,” said Mr Thacker.

“Journey times are going to increase significantly. Congestion and all of the impacts of that – on the climate, on people’s health, people’s ability to be able to get around on foot and by bike – will be hindered by the fact we haven’t provided an alternative that people see as a real viable way of getting around Hertfordshire.

“This is a solution that’s looking to be able to create a better future transport network, rather than one that is going to hinder people’s ability to get around.

“Because that ability to get around is going to be challenged in the future by the very fact there will be more people and more congestion if we don’t do something.”

Phil Bibby, executive member for Highways and Transport at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “The County Council’s A414 Corridor Strategy highlighted the transport-related challenges impacting our communities and the environment, particularly the increasing traffic congestion.

“The HERT will deliver a modern, accessible transport system that offers a viable alternative to car travel, bringing lasting benefits to Hertfordshire, Essex and beyond.

“This is an exciting, pioneering project that could effect real change in the future and I encourage everyone to explore the virtual exhibition and complete the online survey."

The HERT was developed in response to feedback gathered during consultation on the draft A414 Corridor Strategy in 2019, which showed support for a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Hertfordshire.