A rail action group says the need for a high-speed link to 1066 Country is being ‘underplayed’.
East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) says it believes it has uncovered a ‘substantial flaw’ in the way government consultants assessed the likely benefit of electrifying the Ashford-Hastings railway.
Electrifying the line would enableg high-speed services to brought to the south coast, particularly Rye, Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne.
Ray Chapman, co-chairman of ESRA, said the Department for Transport assessment model used by consultants Mott MacDonald fails in its calculation of the real benefits to the local economy that would come with high-speed and may have suggested the benefits were marginal, compared with rail developments competing for funds elsewhere.
He said: “The study asserts an apparent 1:2 cost benefit ratio (CBR) which should have been calculated at 1:3 to 1:4 or more.
“The ratio has a direct bearing on whether government and Network Rail will support the scheme.
“East Sussex County Council and those of Hastings and Rother have been advised the benefit of high-speed rail coming to Hastings is on a 1:2 basis delivering new track, signalling, new trains to achieve a substantial community benefit.
“However, there are major factors not taken into account, including the benefits that would come as the result of operating high-speed trains and the new influx of people coming to the south coast to work and travel here.”
Ray added the benefits to the south coast at 1:3 would be investment on the south coast of up to an estimated £1.5bn.
He said: “That would be a very convincing reason for investing in the game changing high-speed HS1 project.
“Interestingly, the CBR on the newly opened Bexhill-Hastings Link Road is £100m spend and expected to bring £1bn new investment over the next years in expanded commercial and residential developments, many of which are already planned.
“ESRA recommends Mott MacDonald reopens the case, to confirm that in fact its findings, without taking a wider estimation, do underplay the value that high-speed trains will bring to the south coast.
“We need that electrification game changer – and the re-installation of the through line at Willingdon – to act as insurance against the increasingly poor performance of the rail services that are using the extremely challenged Brighton-London Main Line affecting our coastal commuters on a daily basis and giving a very poor value for season ticket holders.
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