Rail Funding demand for Sussex

No doubt that MarshLink and East Sussex Rail Alliance promoters of rail services development for Rye, Winchelsea, Hastings and the coastal rail improvements will be encouraged by Councillor Granville’s Bantick’s support (Observer last week).

The Government and Network Rail are committing to major future investment in UK rail – yes, that new economic-generating rail line to be built for £42.5 billion by 2025; but also Network Rail’s intent to spend between 2014 and 2019 of some £37.5 billion. And that future funding is in negotiation even now, all to cope with a 30 per cent journey increase projected by 2022. Let’s be real - that spend is so far ahead and does not affect what is happening today, except that at last we have long term planning – and hope!

How often have we heard the refrain “something must be done” or “something should have been done”? The UK’s HS1 finally opened 14 years AFTER the Channel Tunnel, during which time Eurostars trundled through Kent at an average speed of just 47 miles/hour: In contrast the French had their high speed line open 18 months before.

And more locally, Rye itself has already started to see the benefits of high-speed rail, with a 68 minute connection to London via Ashford at peak times, making the town increasingly attractive for visitors.

The big challenge for us all - and for the councillor to help lead - is to get a greater share of the national spend to be invested in the southern counties - in MarshLink rail development in particular. Too much funding is weighted towards the capital, the Midlands and the North, while we suffer severe neglect down on the south coast.

And the balancing of funds for all infrastructure needs in the South East is one of the key jobs identified by our local MPs and the county council to cut the employment queues, help reduce homelessness with new housing, and to grow our county’s economy.

Richard Tilden Smith

c/o 2 Church Cottages, Mountfield