Airport expansion ‘vital’ for East Sussex regeneration

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Rail campaigners say the expansion of Gatwick Airport is ‘vital’ for the regeneration of Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne.

Following on from the Government decision last week to postpone its support for the bids to expand Heathrow or Gatwick’s runway capacity, East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) is urging its members and the East Sussex travelling public to back the submission by Gatwick Airport.

ESRA says this has a direct bearing on the South East Region’s ability to expand and investment in rail on the coastal and direct lines to the Capital.

Ray Chapman, co-chairman of ESRA, said: “It is vital that the Gatwick Airport plan goes forward - and while air and rail traffic will increase inevitably, and some parts of the county will be adversely affected - in the wider interests the potential investment released will encourage new rail improvements (which might even encourage a new high speed line from Brighton into London), increase the attraction of the south coast for commercial and residential development and bring about substantial improvements to journey times from the coast to and from the capital.

“As a region we have been neglected for far too long - and the result is that we have too many deprived and under-employed in East Sussex, especially among the coastal communities of Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne.

“So we need better county infrastructure - in roads with the massively overlooked A27 and A21 dualling - and in rail with Ashford-Ore electrification and the reinstatement of the Willingdon direct line to speed journeys, cutting times by between 30 minutes and an hour - as well as massively improving the travel on the coastal rail services.

“It is just so important that our Members of Parliament are told of your support - as they have a direct influence on the runway decision.

“It has to be said that, while the Heathrow proposal has potentially massive and insoluble environmental impact, that from Gatwick is massively less.

“Our view is that with the still enormous growth in air travel - and UK must have its share - as it is key to the nation’s growth that there is a positive decision, but Gatwick has such a positive potential impact on the south east, in true competitive state we might encourage Government to give both schemes the go-ahead.

“As Gatwick can support its own funding, if given the go-ahead, this airport could complete its second runway and deliver improvements first.

“Inevitably Heathrow , as it requires public support of an estimated £15 billion, would take considerably longer to work through the heavy weight resistances to its plans for the airport, M25 motorway servicing it, and the enormous environmental effect.

“Because actual travel predictions exceed forecasts, two new runways will be required in the next decade if the nation is to remain competitive.”

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