A rail vision for business

This week Parliament will be voting on HS2. Too often politicians take decisions that effect short time frames (some might say electoral cycles) and fail to plan bold and yes, expensive, infrastructure projects to make sure that the UK remains economically competitive. This time we have a 20 year project to transform the connection and the capacity from North to South, and I support it.

But what about our corner of the UK? What about OUR infrastructure? Well, I have some cautious good news to report there. I have been working with our local Rail improvement campaign group SHRIMP (St Leonard’s & Hastings Rail Improvement Plan) and the Marshlink Action Group to find a way to deliver fast trains to London. We had a meeting with Network Rail in Parliament and have finally broken through the opposition to our plans. We have long campaigned for an electrification of the Hastings - Ashford Line, but six months ago we stepped up our target and added the request for HS1. The vision is for HS1 to run direct from Bexhill, Hastings, Rye, through Ashford to London. And at our meeting Network Rail showed us that they had done the preliminary work on this and had concluded that there was a business case. This would mean 68 minutes Hastings to London. And under an hour from Rye to London.

But before we congratulate ourselves on a successful campaign there are two major caveats. 1) the business case has to be proven beyond doubt 2) this would come in the spending period that starts in 2019. So we have our own vision for serious rail infrastructure investment. And like HS2 it will not happen over night and one we will have to keep fighting for. But it is a big prize and one that, with the local community’s help, I will work hard to deliver.