A RAPID transit system linking Colchester with new garden communities on the west and east could cost three times more than projected, an expert has warned.

Steve Johnstone, of Lawrence Walker Limited, told Planning Inspector Roger Clews during the extra evidence hearing focusing on transport infrastructure he thought the councils' proposed costings for the scheme were wildly optimistic.

Mr Johnstone was commissioned by the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (Cause) and other opponents of the scheme to examine the plans for the rapid transit system, which could eventually link 43,000 homes at new towns on the Colchester Tendring border, at West Tey and west of Braintree.

He said the figure of £207 million quoted at the hearing would not be sufficient to make the system a reality.

"My evidence from previous experience, which was based as the designer and builder of the Fastrack route in Dartford and various other schemes associated with Nottingham tram scheme, which are currently ongoing, is that it is not sufficient and it is some way adrift of a proper figure.

"In comparison to a scheme I built the £207 million is about a third."

In his evidence statement, Mr Johnstone said the Dartford scheme's Route A cost around £13 million per kilometre when adjusted for inflation compared to a figure of between £4.1 million and £4.6 million per kilometre project for north Essex.

Martin Whittles, representing Jacobs, said the firm had checked cost data with several sources and other similar projects, including the Dartford scheme mentioned by Mr Johnstone.

"I think it is misleading to indicate the costs are far out to those which would be realised," he said.

"The project director of the Dartford scheme was the engineer who I checked the costs with.

"It is also around a similar area as the ongoing Belfast Glider Scheme.

"We have confidence we are talking about the right order and magnitude of costs."

Last year, Essex County Council consulted on proposed routes for the rapid transit system as well as for a new dual carriageway linking the A120 and A133.

A total of £99 million has been secured from the Government for the link road and first stage of the rapid transit system.

The hearing was told on Thursday work on the £65 million link road could begin in spring 2022 and be complete two-years-later.

The extra evidence Local Plan hearing sessions continue next week, with Mr Clews expected to give his thoughts on the proposals towards the end of February.

Colchester, Tendring, Braintree and Essex councils' are jointly involved in the garden community proposals.

To listen or find out more, visit braintree.gov.uk/LPS1PublicExamination.