Kent County Council looks to put rail on a sound footing in the post-Covid era, reports JAMES ABBOTT
The draft Kent Rail Strategy 2021 was the chief topic of conversation in this year’s Kent Rail Summit, held digitally on 13 October 2020. The Strategy, covered in last month’s news pages (p14), seeks to build on the strong rail presence in the county, with improvements to the infrastructure and extra rolling stock proposed.
The assumptions in the Strategy, laid out by KCC’s Rail Project Manager, Stephen Gasche, are that pre-Covid levels of demand will return by around 2025. The population of Kent and Medway is set to grow in the next decade by 179,000 people – equivalent to three new settlements the size of Tunbridge Wells.
PROPOSED INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
A shopping list of proposed improvements in the county is led by the Marshlink connection from HS1, which would allow bi-mode trains (or, with electrification of the Marshlink, electric trains) from Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings to reach St Pancras. The current thinking on the way in which this might be achieved is to build a new platform 2a at Ashford where one of the fast lines of the historic route is currently situated (p68, December 2019 issue). Network Rail is working in conjunction with Kent and East Sussex county councils on the preparation of a Strategic Outline Business Case for this project.