Renewed calls for high speed train services at rail summit

High speed train services could be running from 1066 Country within the next five years.

The possibility of bringing the fast route to Hastings was highlighted at a rail summit hosted by the town’s MP Amber Rudd on Friday (January 30).

Representatives from businesses and other organisations made the case for high speed rail and Ms Rudd said she intends to launch a campaign.

She said: “The green light is well and truly lit for high speed rail to our homes. We need to continue to show our determination to get this essential infrastructure delivered.

“All the speakers encouraged us, as the community to speak up to make our campaign clear and vocal to ensure delivery. That is why I am launching a rail campaign to demonstrate our support for this exciting transformation for our rail connectivity.”

At the summit were Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, Ray Chapman, of East Sussex Rail Alliance, and representatives from Network Rail, Southeastern and Southern.

The High Speed Rail line will be an extension from Ashford International stopping at Rye, Hastings and Bexhill.

The new service will see the time to get to London cut down to 68 minutes from Hastings and under an hour from Rye. Network Rail plans to fit the project into its 2019 spending window. But Ms Rudd said she is pushing for work to start in 2017.

Ray Chapman, of East Sussex Rail Alliance, said: “The arrival of UK-built Japanese designed high speed trains in Hastings and St Leonards will be a transformation for tourism, making Hastings a great choice for weekend breaks, day trips and longer trips from London and further afield including the European connection at Thames Gateway and Ashford.

“This will create an opportunity for big businesses supporting local business into moving to the area creating living wage jobs across many sectors as the area becomes better connected.”

The next steps are for core stakeholders to put together a business case for the project. Ms Rudd said she will be working closely on this with rail users, business leaders and local authorities to ensure the best possible case is put together.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Sussex Coast College for hosting the event, Hitachi for making it possible to get a Javelin train down to Hastings and to all those who helped to make our rail summit a great success,” she added.

Cllr Peter Chowney, lead member for regeneration at Hastings Borough Council, said: “It was widely accepted by all the speakers at the conference that the journey time between Hastings and London is too long.

“Indeed, we are very disappointed that the modern timetable, operated with new trains, gives us far slower journeys than the timetable of 25 years ago run with the old ‘slam door’ trains.

“We know that it will require a lot of investment to get the high speed Javelin trains to run to Hastings and Bexhill via Ashford. The Marshlink will need to be electrified between Ashford and Hastings, a key junction at Ashford will need to be rebuilt to allow trains to run between HS1 and Marshlink, and more Javelin trains will be required. We also accept that, unfortunately, this will take some time.

“However, it was good to hear the transport minister say that the DfT will support the investment if a strong regeneration business case can be developed. We will work hard with Rother District Council, East Sussex County Council, and our rail industry partners to do just that.”