Published: 00:01, 05 January 2019
Fifty new jobs will be created when a disused train depot reopens as part of extensive railway upgrades across the county.
Chart Leacon in Beaver Lane, which was once a thriving and busy railway maintenance site, has sat mothballed for almost five years.
But part of the depot is now set to house Southeastern trains when the operator is ousted from the Hitachi depot in Station Road to make way for new Thameslink trains.
Earlier this month, Network Rail submitted a planning application with Ashford Borough Council (ABC) to reinstate derelict railway sidings at Chart Leacon to house the Southeastern trains.
Chiefs say the work will provide “significant investment and new job opportunities for Ashford”, with up to 50 new full-time staff needed.
It is not yet known exactly what roles will be created, but it is likely to include a mix of depot staff, support staff and train drivers.
In a statement on the Thameslink website, it says: “To support Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) in providing the Thameslink service, a decision was taken by the Department for Transport to make the existing Hitachi depot at Ashford available to GTR.
“This depot is currently utilised by Southeastern trains.
“As a result, trains operated by Southeastern will be displaced from the Hitachi depot, meaning that stabling is required in the Ashford area to accommodate these displaced Southeastern trains.
“Chart Leacon has been identified as the most suitable site for accommodating the identified stabling need on a long-term basis.”
Bosses say GTR will require three months to prepare for the start of the new services, meaning the stabling needs to be fully operational by September before the Thameslink trains are rolled out in December.
Chart Leacon, which opened in 1961, was owned by Bombardier when it closed in 2014, ending Ashford’s only surviving link with its railway heritage.
The site is currently in third party ownership and attempts to acquire it by agreement have failed, but an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 has been made to ensure Network Rail can reopen the works.
In its planning application lodged with ABC, Network Rail has applied for permission for demolition of existing structures at the sidings, as well as building a two-storey workers accommodation block and 36 parking spaces.
Only the sidings are earmarked for development by Network Rail, with the rest of the site set to remain mothballed.
In ABC’s Local Plan - which sets out where homes will be built in the borough up to 2030 - 100 homes are proposed for land next to the former depot, fronting Leacon Road.
The Thameslink rail service is set to be extended to Maidstone in December, with the fleet of six eight-car GTR trains being housed at Hitachi.
Thameslink trains will not run in Ashford, but will go from Maidstone East to London.
The service will see trains stopping at West Malling, Borough Green, Wrotham and Otford before travelling to popular city stations London Bridge, Blackfriars and St Pancras.