Battery-powered high-speed trains were proclaimed as the way to decrease rail journey times in 1066 country at a transport summit today (Friday, March 18).
Hybrid Javelin trains would eliminate the need to electrify the Marshlink but still reduce the time it takes to get to London, according to transport representatives at Sussex Coast College.
The audience also listened to updates from the railway and bus companies, Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman, the roads minister and heard about the prospect of driverless cars.
Protesters against welfare cuts and closing the Hastings university campus demonstrated outside as Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd kicked off the summit.
“Making a business case is such an important part of achieving what we want which is getting investment,” she said.
“We can’t just wish it or try and beg for it, we have to make a business case and persuade investors to come to make that happen.”
Network Rail’s senior strategic planner in the south east Paul Best explained how they are proposing an ‘incremental approach’ to electrifying the railway between Ashford and Bexhill.
He said they can increase speed limits in certain places but also look into using hybrid trains with a battery so they can be used on the normal track and electric line from St Pancras to Ashford, which would reduce journey times.
Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney fully supported the proposal as it would bring HS1 to the area sooner and cheaper.
“The idea that we could get Javelin on the Marshlink line without electrification using battery technology is a brilliant one,” he said.
Nick Reed from the Transport Research Laboratory showed off their autonomous vehicle which he said would be the future for short-distance commuting.
They are being tested in Greenwich but he said they could revolutionise our town centres by reducing the need for parking spaces as well as providing a greener and safer transport option.
Mr Merriman explained how his position on the transport select committee meant he could lobby ministers and chief executives over the A21 and high-speed rail at every opportunity.
“If the only thing we do is actually deliver this rail network then I fell that I have done a good job as an MP,” he said.
“We had a debate on Wednesday with the rail minister where we were talking about Southern’s performance and I decided to give a few ideas about freeing up capacity.
“So at every stage we bore the ministers to death about this project so they think, ‘lets give them the money to shut them up.’”
Roads minister Andrew Jones said how this week’s budget shows how the government is committed to transport improvements and funding new infrastructure which East Sussex Rail Alliance’s Ray Chapman described as ‘broken’.
Charles Horton, chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway and Alex Foulds, passenger service director at Southern Railway, explained the difficulties they have with the network running at full capacity which means any slight delay has a huge knock-on effect.
Improvements costing £6billion are being spent at London Bridge to try and ‘untangle’ the lines coming into the capital from the south east which should reduce delays, Mr Foulds said.
Other announcements were 85 new drivers being recruited and new ticket machines for Ore, Three Oaks and Winchelsea.
Stagecoach’s Matthew Arnold spoke about using the new link road to improve punctuality as well as buying more buses and training more drivers.
For more, see next week’s Observer.
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