Published: 13:28, 31 August 2018
| Updated: 17:19, 31 August 2018
The idea of introducing a new railway station to "reduce congestion and urban pollution" in Canterbury has been resurrected.
The city's MP, Rosie Duffield, met with Network Rail officials yesterday to discuss plans for the proposed station that would be based in Hambrook Marshes near Wincheap, where the Canterbury East and West lines meet.
The idea of a so-called Canterbury Parkway station has been rumbling since the 1980s, but judging by details of the potential project shared on social media by Ms Duffield, it looks set to take a step forward.
"The station would be located just outside of Canterbury and would act as an interchange station between the Canterbury East and West lines," Ms Duffield said.
"This would mean commuters could park outside the city centre, which will reduce congestion and urban air pollution.
"It will vastly reduce transit times for those travelling from Whitstable and Faversham to places such as Ashford and Hastings.
"A new Canterbury Parkway station is a very exciting move for our city. Although plans are in the early stages and could take years to deliver, a station with plenty of parking outside the main city is excellent news for easing congestion, particularly around Canterbury West."
The Labour MP for Canterbury and Whitstable went onto explain that the proposal could negate the need for the controversial multi-storey car park at Canterbury West.
In April, councillors voted in favour of building a new £9.1m car park in Station Road West, although the plans have been met with fierce opposition from clean air campaigners who believe it will exacerbate existing pollution and congestion problems in the area.
"If we can speed up plans for the Parkway station, then projects such as the 'white elephant' car park at Canterbury Road West should be halted as their future viability and purpose is re-examined," said Ms Duffield. "It means the gargantuan and costly car park voted for by Canterbury’s Tory council could end up an under-used architectural stain on the St. Dunstan’s side of the city."
She added that the potential station should be considered during the planning of the long-awaited A2 bypass into Wincheap
"New routes for the sliproad should be immediately considered with this in mind," she said. "Joined up thinking is what’s needed for Wincheap."
The subject of a Canterbury parkway station was included in a study carried out by Network Rail this year, into long-term plans for the South East rail network as a whole.
The study included a subsection entitled the 'new Canterbury interchange station', in which the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) expressed support for the idea.
The organisation said: “We understand that options for a new Canterbury station were explored many years ago, although we have been unable to find any details.
"There is adequate space here for platforms which could provide for quick interchanges between the lines.
"The line to Canterbury West has land on its north side to enable road connection to Rheims Way for pedestrians, cyclists, buses and cars, and, subject to Highways England approval, it would also be possible to create links to the A2. There is also plenty of space for parking.”
The idea of an interchange between Canterbury's two stations has been cropping up since the 1980s.
Currently, Canterbury East and West sit on different lines. But the new station could potentially link the two services, reducing travel times for railway users.
University of Kent Emeritus Professor Richard Scase, described as one of the world's leading business forecasters, said: "To have a Canterbury parkway station is a far more preferable option than having a multi-storey car park next to Canterbury West.
"There has been talk about air pollution, congestion and increased crime if the car park was built.
"But what you would have here, at Canterbury parkway, would be a proper, dedicated transport hub that would get traffic out of the city."
Network Rail said that while no funding or designs for the station are currently in place, it is reaching out to interested parties to gauge opinion.
A spokesman said: “In our draft Kent route study, which sets out the strategic vision for the railway in Kent over the next 30 years, we investigated ways to improve connectivity between the north and the south of the county.
“One option was for a new rail link between the Canterbury East and West lines, allowing direct trains between Faversham and Ashford. However, this would prove very challenging both technically and environmentally.
“As part of the consultation feedback, it was suggested a new station should be built instead, where the two lines cross close to the A2. We are now engaging with stakeholders to gauge local opinion.
“This proposal is at a very early stage and although it is a long term possibility, there is currently no funding or designs in place. However we welcome Rosie Duffield MP’s support for the concept.”
Canterbury City Council would not comment on the subject of the parkway, but defended the city's plans for a new multi-storey car park.
Council spokesman Leo Whitlock said: "The 380 space multi-storey car park next to Canterbury West railway station will provide the parking capacity this area of the city needs for the next 32 years as the demand for train travel grows.
"It will also support the businesses in St Dunstan's which are predominantly smaller, independent traders.
"The car park will feature the very latest camera and barrier technology and electric charging spaces and is part of a package of measures to create an integrated transport hub in Station Road West."
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More by this authorLydia Chantler-Hicks