EACH time we dine out, make that special purchase, or exercise at the local health or golf club, we might remember that these will probably be supported in some way by the ‘City spend’, often made possible by those commuting on the direct Hastings to London Cannon Street service.
In 1986, when the Queen Mother opened the newly-electrified line, an important new transport link, hitherto only dreamed of, was born.
A new generation of commuters was attracted to the area, bringing home a fatter City wage packet to be spent locally.
Subsequently, with the benefit of their expertise and access to City finance, many also started their own businesses here.
Communities either side of the line served by the stations south of Tunbridge Wells (Frant, Wadhurst, Stonegate, Etchingham, Robertsbridge, Battle, Crowhurst and Hastings) have benefited considerably from the direct Cannon Street service, and the economic lifeline which it has also provided.
Twenty-five years later, the picture is not quite so rosy. The electrification was apparently done ‘on the cheap’, the rail infrastructure seems barely fit for purpose and the service often ‘second best’.
Competition from the new ‘High Speed 1’ to the East and Southern’s service to the West pose real threats, with our own passenger numbers possibly flat-lining.
Any proposal to discontinue the direct commuter service to Cannon Street post 2014, with commuters having to change at London Bridge, would clearly further disadvantage our area.
Existing commuters might put up with it, but no potential new commuter would entertain the idea.
As Mark Beaumont, principal of Claremont, one of the areas’s leading Preparatory and Senior Schools, puts it “This is a superb area in which to raise a family. But many of our parents re-locate on the understanding that they retain direct access to the City.”
Concerted action is needed now. To continue the direct Hastings-Cannon Street rail service, please write to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Houses of Parliament, London SW1A 0AA, with a copy to your MP .
To petition for improvements to the line’s infrastructure, visit www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk and ‘Hastings Rail Links’.
The Hawkhurst Community Partnership