Communities in a new 23,000-home garden town could be connected by a light rail or cable-guided bus service, Epping Forest councillors have suggested.

Epping Forest District Council endorsed a transport strategy for Harlow and Gilston Garden Town on Tuesday, which includes plans for a “bus rapid transit system.”

This would run alongside “sustainable transport corridors” connecting different parts of the development as well as nearby towns like Epping, Harlow and Broxbourne.

The strategy is aiming for 60 per cent of journeys starting and ending in the garden town to be taken using sustainable travel like walking, cycling and taking the bus.

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Responding to questions from opposition councillors about how rapid transit differs from normal buses, Cllr John Philip (Con, Theydon Bois) said a new system would give priority to buses and suggested possible ways this could be achieved.

Cllr Philip, who is responsible for finance and economic development, told the meeting: “The difference between a normal bus and a rapid transit is primarily down to routing and provision of dedicated areas.

“It could even form something like a light rail service rather than an actual bus.

“It could be a cable-guided bus, they are all things that basically give you the priority to the bus rather than making it run on standard routes, so it’s dedicating things to make those transport solutions something that can deliver a quick and reliable and regular service.”

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In his question to Cllr Philip, Cllr Roger Baldwin (Loughton Residents Association, Loughton Forest), also pointed out the sustainable transport corridors were largely proposed for Harlow and raised concerns about connections to Epping.

Cllr Philip said the strategy is contained within the boundaries of the garden town, but routes could still connect to places surrounding the development such as Epping and  North Weald.

Additionally, the strategy is now a material planning consideration, which means any future planning applications or masterplans will have to take it into account, now it has been endorsed by the cabinet.

Harlow and Gilston Garden Town will contribute 3,900 homes to Epping Forest’s local plan period, which is over a third of the district’s allocated housing until 2033, according to a council report.

The rapid transit system would provide new cross-town services, integrate timetables, re-serve the London emissions zone and react to the relocation of Princess Alexandra Hospital, the report continues.

Destinations outside the urban area such as Broxbourne and Stansted Airport could also be served by the new network.

The strategy uses case studies to outline its vision, including the West Sussex Fastway, which uses guided busways to bypass congestion hotspots.

According to the strategy, these have reduced traffic in the area by 16 per cent.