WHILE the front page of last week’s Observer had good news regarding the long overdue upgrade of the railway via Rye and a link with the Kent High Speed line to St Pancras, it should all be tempered with knowing it is all going to be a long time coming if, as stated in the Observer, construction is not expected to commence till 2019.
I really can’t see it taking five years to get the job done though - 2024 is a long, long time to wait.
As a staunch opponent of rail privatisation from the very start, I can’t help but compare this Network Rail undertaking to upgrade the Ashford line with British Rail’s (BR) electrification of the Tonbridge route back in 1986.
BR announced in October 1983 that this project would go ahead with additional work involving single lining several tunnels and all the resignalling etc that would entail. Work commenced the following year and electric services started in May 1986. All done in a couple of years.
I think that the most complex part of upgrading the route via Rye - whenever it starts - will involve remodelling the layout at Ashford where at present, there is no link between the High Speed platforms and the Hastings line. But as to this project taking five years - why so long?
Still - good news it all is - and hopefully we can also look forward to the fourth richest economy in the world finding the funds to upgrade the railway in the opposite direction towards Brighton and Gatwick where 30 minutes can be saved by constructing a new link between Pevensey and Polegate to replace the one shut many years ago and now built on.
Check out the Railfuture website www.railfuture.org.uk/Marshlink to see a well-constructed set of proposals for local rail enhancements.