Published: 08:20, 23 February 2009
Ashford once again has a direct train service to Brussels.
Politicians from Kent County Council, MEPs and press left Ashford at 6.27am on Monday morning, arriving in Brussels just before 9am.
The Brussels service from Ashford was axed when Ebbsfleet opened in November 2007 despite much opposition including a 15,000 name petition delivered to Downing Street by campaigner Edith Robson.
Mrs Robson, who makes the journey to Brussels regularly, was at Ashford International station to mark the re-instatement of the service.
She said: "It's a good start. This service will be great for business people but it doesn't address the leisure market. People can't access it from the rest of Kent or East Sussex. I think a train maybe about 9am which also stopped at Lille; as we used to have lots of people who got off at Lille to access the rest of Europe.
One business passenger who will find this re-instated service a great relief - both in terms of his own time and his own business - is company director Simon Pettman.
He moved to Canterbury 11 years ago to take advantage of the train link from Ashford to Brussels, but since the Ashford train was axed 15 months ago he has been forced to drive to Ebbsfleet in North Kent.
Mr Pettman, director of EAS, which provides advice on nutritional products, said: "It takes me about an extra week to two weeks a year as I do the journey two to three times a week.
"That extra travel up to Ebbsfleet is enormous. What I also found very problematic was the amount of car emmissions it was taking me. That was painful having moved back here as we had a relatively environmental solution of getting from the UK out to Brussels, but then pumping up and down the M20 to and from Ebbsfleet was not good. And then there was the time factor: I was getting home later and leaving earlier and it was just a lot more challenging."
The re-instated link with Brussels could help the Kent economy too. Mr Pettman has a company in Asia as well as the one in Brussels.
He said: "We provide quite a lot of work in this area.
"When I moved back 11 years ago I brought all the design and printing work back to local companies but with the closure of Ashford we had to review a lot of that work because it was quite simply impossible for staff to get from Brussels to Ashford and meet with the designers - so I'll be looking at re-starting some of that work too."
Brussels services leave Ashford at 6.27am Monday to Friday, 8.28am on Saturdays and 6.55pm on Sundays.
Fares start from £59 return and allow travellers from Ashford to travel through to any station in Belgium.
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