High Speed One train on track for the future

A HIGH-SPEED train taking commuters to the capital in just over an hour could finally hit the tracks it was revealed on Monday (March 31) at the Hastings Rail Summit.

Organised by MP Amber Rudd, the summit was held at Sussex Coast College and attended by Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin, local councillors and rail officials who discussed the electrifying of the Ore to Ashford line.

An electrified line could see the introduction of a High Speed One (HS1) train, allowing commuters to travel between Hastings and London in just 68 minutes. The HS1 train would run direct from Bexhill, Hastings, Rye, Ashford, Ebbsfleet, Stratford and London St Pancras International.

Ray Chapman, of St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement group (SHRIMP), told the Observer: “It’s exciting times. It would open up the Thames Gateway to Hastings. All those people that go to the beach on a sunny day will suddenly have another option, Hastings. All those London boroughs near Stratford will be just 15 minutes or so from a fast train to Hastings. It will completely change the town and impact on tourism in a big way.

“We need a group like Norwich 90 set up to make sure that there’s a line from Norwich to London in 90 minutes. We need a group which will make sure all the milestones of the project are met right up until it is developed.”

However, HS1 is still a long-term project, taking five years to complete and with construction not expected to start until at least 2019.

But attendees agreed that Monday’s summit was ‘very positive,’ paving the way for a future high-speed train to the capital and Network Rail announced that £2.3 billion has been assigned to improve train services in the south east from 2014 to 2019.

Cllr Jeremy Birch, council leader, said: “It was good to hear an ‘absolute commitment’ being given to move the electrification of the Hastings to Ashford ‘Marshlink’ line being moved up the agenda.”

John Shaw, CEO of Sea Change Sussex, said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement of the opportunity for high speed rail investment and faster Hastings to London journey times this would bring. We’re relieved that Network Rail has completed the track repairs which restore our direct links to Charing Cross and Cannon Street, and the protection and enhancement of the early morning services to London. The announcements by the Secretary of State underline the growing confidence of existing businesses as well as those seeking to locate in East Sussex.”