SOUTH Essex could have a direct rail link with the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet in Kent if £4billion plans for a new tunnel under the Thames become reality.

London-based consortium Metrotidal is behind proposals for the road and rail link between the Hoo Peninsula in Kent and Canvey.

As part of its blueprint, there would be a rail line from the Eurostar station at Ebbsfleet in Kent, running through the tunnel and linking up to Pitsea on the c2c rail betwork.

A further section of track would then be built to Wickford on the One line, effectively leading to the Crossrail project from Shenfield to Heathrow.

Mark Willingale, a director of Metrotidal, said: "It's very much a rail driven scheme.

"It would be a discretE line which would run from Wickford and Pitsea to Rochester and Ebbsfleet in Kent."

The most likely rail route would use green belt land through North Benfleet, crossing the A127 somewhere near the Dick Turpin pub.

It would then go through Bowers Gifford, crossing the A13 somewhere near Basildon Crematorium.

Mr Willingale said: "We would not need to build many miles of track for the scheme in either Essex or Kent.

"We would only have to build a 25km section of new railway to provide a 250km orbital rail system for Thames Gateway - a Crossrail Plus.

"It would also give a direct connection at Ebbsfleet with Channel Tunnel rail services.

"Getting on a train at Pitsea and stepping off in Kent, in under 20 minutes, would be amazing.

"The scheme could transform south Essex's connection with the rest of the Thames Gateway both by road and rail."

John Baron, Tory MP for Billericay, said: "I welcome any possibility of Wickford receiving better transport links.

"However, we must ensure it improves existing services, otherwise we will be looking at it very critically."

Commuter Paul Adams, 42, from Pitsea, said the scheme could have huge benefits for south Essex.

He said: "Thinking logically, this is a wonderful scheme.

"Linking up the two main rail lines in south Essex with Crossrail at one end and Kent at the other could make it so much easier for people travelling.

"Think of the convenience of being able to get to the Eurostar without going to Waterloo or through the Dartford river crossing."

Metrotidal's plans also include a new Thames road crossing, a flood defence system, a tidal power plant and a new eco-town.

The cost of the scheme could be recouped by charges for travelling on the road and rail line.