The Secretary of State for Transport committed to support the development of a proposed new track layout at Ashford International which would allow trains from 1066 Country to travel direct to London St Pancras.
Chris Grayling showed his support during a visit to Ashford on Friday, November 3, organised by Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd.
The proposed changes would also allow trains to travel from Hastings, Rye and Bexhill direct to London St Pancras.
Mr Grayling said: “I am looking forward to seeing the outcome of the examination into modifying track layouts at Ashford International.
“Improving journey times from Hastings, Bexhill and Rye is an important step in updating rail travel in the South East for the 21st century. The government is delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme since Victorian times, with £48bn recently committed to making the changes we need on the network in 2019-2024.
“Across the country, we’re transforming the way we travel, providing faster, more comfortable and more reliable services for passengers.”
Amber Rudd added: “This was a very encouraging meeting and I am pleased that the Department for Transport will support local authorities to help make the case for direct journeys to London St Pancras. This commitment to examine the changes to the track layout at Ashford International is the first step to deliver high speed rail for our communities.
“High speed journey times will bring transformational benefits to our towns and open up a huge range of opportunities for local people. I will continue to lead work to deliver this as soon as possible for our communities.”
The changes would see connections made between tracks to allow trains to travel from the Marshlink to the HS1 line to London. Passengers travelling from East Sussex to London St Pancras via Ashford International would then not need to change trains at Ashford – cutting journey times between Hastings and London St Pancras to slightly more than 80 minutes, and between London and Bexhill to around 95 minutes.
The visit was also attended by Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman who said: “I am grateful to Amber for her continued drive and leadership on this exciting project. By bringing Chris Grayling down, he now has first-hand experience of what we have been lobbying him for. This first phase could deliver tangible time benefits for those travelling between London and the East Sussex coast. This project could deliver regeneration to our economy and bring more visitors to the area. I am determined to keep pushing for it to be delivered.”