A NEW £93million south Essex electric rail service will not go ahead if councils do not unite or merge together.

The fully electric rail service – similar to London’s Docklands Light Railway – will see five stations built in Thurrock, Brentwood, Basildon, Southend and Southend Airport.

But doubt has plagued the plans, published by the Association of south Essex Local Authorities, as the project relies on a south Essex “super mayor” finalising a deal with the Government for adequate funding.

The powerful elected mayor would be in charge of infrastructure for a number of councils, once they have merged following the Government’s shake up in local democracy.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council, has called on the Government to “fulfill promises”, while Ian Gilbert, Labour leader of Southend Council said south Essex is “lagging behind” in investment.

Any shake-up of Essex councils has yet to be finalised, with council bosses in the dark over which authorities would join up.

Mr Gilbert said: “This (the electric rail system) is one of the options being considered for investment, but we need investment in road and rail.

“We also need investment on education and skills. This is really important.”

The light rail service will run as a 24/7 service, with the precise location of the five stations yet to be decided.

The cost of the five stations will total £63million.

Mr Callaghan added: “It won’t be able to work unless we have combined authorities. The mayor would agree a deal with the Government for a yearly fund.

“The mayor would be responsible for finding money to fund projects.

“The deal could be £10million, £30million, or £50million, but we would need foreign investment as well.

“Everything the Association of south Essex Local Authorities has come up with is achievable. Nothing in the report is undeliverable.

“It’s an enormous amount of money, but it will be funded through central Government.

“It’s not a ridiculous amount if it’s coming from central Government.

“The mayor will open a package of funding, but there will be a need to drive foreign investment.

“This is what we need to do post Brexit. Countries are investing a lot of money in the UK economy.”