WORK WILL begin towards connecting the Marshlink line from Hastings to High Speed 1 at Ashford, Home Secretary and Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd has announced.

Ms Rudd says the news follows a meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, following which she says a commitment has been made to supporting a proposed track layout at Ashford International that would allow trains from Hastings, Rye, Bexhill and Eastbourne to travel via HS1 to London St Pancras.

Ms Rudd’s ambition is to reduce journey times between Hastings and London to 66 minutes, and she says the change would help make possible a journey time to St Pancras of 81 minutes. Infrastructure improvements on the Marshlink line could then deliver the further cut required to meet Ms Rudd’s ambition.

The service would require hybrid rolling stock, running on dieselelectric or battery-electric technology.

Ms Rudd says she is pushing for such a requirement to be included in the new South Eastern franchise, which is due to begin in December 2018.

The meeting involved local authorities, Network Rail and Southeastern, who are working together to deliver the project. NR’s draft Kent Route Study suggested using hybrid trains coupled with incremental linespeed improvements would be a more effective way to deliver improvements on the Marshlink line than electrification.