MPs voice their views on Rother Valley Railway plans

Amber Rudd MP. Photo by Derek Canty.
Amber Rudd MP. Photo by Derek Canty.

The MP for Hastings and Rye has spoken out against Rother Valley Railway’s plans for a level crossing on the A21.

Amber Rudd MP says there are ‘safer and more effective ways to re-establish a transport link between Robertsbridge and Bodiam which should be explored’.

Huw Merriman MP.

Huw Merriman MP.

She said: “I have already written to the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, to raise my concerns and opposition regarding building further level crossings on the A21.

“Not only can these level crossings be dangerous, there are also a number of damaging environmental effects which result from the traffic congestion the crossing would cause. I believe it will cause significant congestion, limit tourists’ accessibility and limit our opportunity to achieve economic growth. Furthermore, Network Rail’s work to close level crossings shows just how dangerous they can be.

“I have been working hard to lobby both Government Ministers and industry experts to campaign for the dualling of the A21. Improving our transport links is essential to regenerating our local economy and encouraging businesses to invest in our towns. That is why I am delighted £1 million of funding for Transport for the South East has been announced by the Secretary of State.”

Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, also voiced his views on the proposal.

He said: “I have visited the Rother Valley Railway team for updates on the progress of this project on at least three occasions since I was elected to Parliament to find out more about the benefits and implications for the local area. I have also spoken to parish representatives, local residents and landowners to understand their views.

“I believe this project has the potential to bring increased tourism to the constituency, boost the revenues of the few local shops and services as well as open up new employment opportunities for Robertsbridge village and the surrounding area. It also means that visitors from London can join the heritage railway at Robertsbridge stopping off at villages all the way to Tenterden without having to come by car. This has certainly been the case for the Bluebell Railway in West Sussex which now directly links to the mainline railway station at East Grinstead.

“However, I do appreciate that this project also brings some valid concerns for local residents about increased flood risks in Robertsbridge, the impact of a new level crossing on the A21 and parking issues for the village.

“As a result of hearing these concerns, I have been in direct and regular contact with Highways England, the Environment Agency, the RVR project organisers and Rother District Council to seek assurances that all these risks have been fully considered and can be mitigated.

“With regards to the A21, I am satisfied that, following a technical report commissioned by RVR following consultation with East Sussex County Council, their contractors, Mott Macdonald, concluded that the impact of a level crossing on the A21 at Robertsbridge for the RVR would be minimal.

“When Rother District Council approved the planning application for the RVR they also put in place conditions regarding the A21 which included no trains to run at peak times between 7am to 9am and 5pm and 7pm Monday to Friday including bank holidays. The maximum amount of services crossing the A21 would be around 10 per day between April and October.

“I am also aware that in order to complete this railway line, two local landowners need to reach agreement with RVR about the purchase of their land. I understand that at this stage agreement is unlikely to be reached.

“I would very much like to see positive negotiations on this continue with the landowners as the proposition of a compulsory purchase order is unpalatable for many including the parish council and local residents.

“I have offered to help both parties ensure that their cases are fully represented and I have already stated will not be taking sides on this issue.”

Visit http://www.rvr.org.uk/ for more information.