By Local Democracy Reporter: Christine Sexton
THE cost of a project to build an underpass on a dangerous rail crossing has hit more than £37million.
The planned underpass will replace the level crossing in Grays High Street and will include new public squares to the north and south of the underpass, which will connect with the station, along with shops, cafés and restaurants.
The plan will improve safety at the crossing which has been plagued by problems as people jump the gates near the station platform to avoid paying rail fares.
In July 2020, Thurrock Council’s cabinet was advised that Network Rail estimated between £22.2million and £25.2million for the infrastructure elements of the project. Additionally, land costs, some accrued by compulsory purchase orders and other costs being met by the council, brought the estimated total project costs to between £34.9million and £37.9million.
Further design work has now been completed and a revised cost plan has reduced Network Rail’s costs to £21.2million, nevertheless the overall costs are now expected cost up to £37.3million.
The council already has £10.8million from South Essex Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund and is set to hear this week if it will receive a £25million grant for Grays Towns Board, part of a nationwide scheme to improve some of the most deprived areas in the country.
Mark Coxshall, councillor responsible for Regeneration, Strategic Planning and External Relationships, said: “Network Rail is building it and we are paying for it. They are constructing it because it is technical and on the railway line.
“It is going to transform the area. There were concerns the underpass was too narrow, but we’ve widened it and you will now be able to see right through. It’s much wider and lighter. At this point of the project we are looking at putting shops back in and creating piazza.”
Work is expected to start in November next year and be completed by 2024. It will include the compulsory purchase of some houses and land in the area at a cost of £6.7million.
Mr Coxshall added: We will hear this week from the Town’s Board. If we get the money it has to be spent by 2025. The Government has very clear guidelines on that. You either spend it or give it back.”