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Herts County Council calls for residents' views on proposed Hertfordshire to Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) system

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A project costing up to £2.5 billion is under way to "reimagine" Hertfordshire's transport network through a new west-east rapid transit system – but bypassing Bishop's Stortford for now.

The county council (HCC) has begun the first phase of public engagement on the scheme, with a virtual exhibition and online survey as it prepares a business case.

It wants to relieve pressure on the A414 and create a user-friendly, sustainable alternative to car travel with HERT: the Hertfordshire to Essex Rapid Transit system.

It wants residents to give feedback on the towns and key transport interchanges that could be served by the system, which will "carry more people than a car but will be more convenient and reliable than a traditional bus".

The precise route is still undecided, but it will run from Hemel Hempstead and Watford to Gilston in East Herts before linking to Harlow. In all, 24,000 new homes are planned as part of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) project.

What is also not yet clear is what form the rapid transit system will take. HCC has made it clear that advances in technology such as hydrogen power will be key to the final choice of vehicle, with sustainability and flexibility priorities. Its aspiration is for "a zero-emission vehicle with a modern, comfortable and spacious design that is easy and accessible for all passengers to use".

The suggested route of the HERT transport system (53331427)
The suggested route of the HERT transport system (53331427)

A key feature will be the creation of better links with bus services, walking and cycling routes to form an integrated transport network.

Herts is working with Essex County Council (ECC) to ensure a "seamless" transition across borders, with hopes high that links to Stansted Airport will complement the proposals.

Cllr Lesley Wagland, cabinet member for economic renewal, infrastructure and planning at ECC, said: "Economic growth and new housing must be supported by sustainable transport of good quality that provides fast, frequent and reliable connections to key locations and opportunities. Together, the benefits of an integrated rapid transit network in Hertfordshire into Harlow, and perhaps even further to locations such as Stansted Airport, could be huge."

Over the next 15 years, Hertfordshire has plans for around 100,000 new jobs and up to 100,000 new homes across the county – and half of those are expected to develop along the A414 corridor.

Cllr Richard Roberts, leader of Herts County Council
Cllr Richard Roberts, leader of Herts County Council

HCC leader Cllr Richard Roberts said the project was vital for Hertfordshire's future – on the same day the Government scrapped the long-planned Leeds leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line.

He said Hertfordshire would be making "a really strong case" for backing, and although he was not complacent, he believed the Government would listen because the county generates £40 billion a year for the Treasury.

Cllr Roberts, who also chairs the Hertfordshire Growth Board, 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 county.

Cllr Phil Bibby, Herts County Council's executive member for highways and transport
Cllr Phil Bibby, Herts County Council's executive member for highways and transport

"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."

Cllr Phil Bibby, HCC's executive member for highways and transport, said: "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."

See www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/HERT to have your say on the strategy. There will also be a series of online events. Consultation ends on Friday January 28, 2022.

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