Published: 06:00, 16 October 2020
A £5billion theme park which has been dubbed Britain's answer to Disneyland could "strengthen the case" for much-needed improvements to a railway station in north Kent.
The London Resort will be constructed on 535 acres of land on the Swanscombe peninsula, the equivalent of 136 Wembley stadiums, offering rollercoaster rides and attractions for thrill-seekers for its planned opening of 2024.
However, concerns have been raised about the impact of the "busy" theme park on existing transport infrastructure in the area, including motorways, local roads such as the A2 Bean Road and train stations, including Ebbsfleet and Swanscombe.
But Southeastern's managing director David Statham said the theme park provided a "stronger case" for potential upgrades to Swanscombe railway station, in the High Street, near the A226 London Road, Dartford. This would include creating disabled access facilities at the two-platform station.
Speaking at KCC's rail summit on Tuesday, he said: “One of the questions floating around my mind is whether the theme park going ahead might make a better case to access government funding or additional funding through the developer to enhance accessibility at that station."
His comments came during the virtual public meeting which was attended by more than 100 people, including Network Rail, HS1 and Southeastern representatives and dozens of councillors.
Dartford county councillor Peter Harman, of Swanscombe and Greenhithe Residents Association, welcomed the news as he vowed to press the authorities for clearer timelines.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “It’s going to be busy at the station if the theme park goes ahead. For those living in Swanscombe disabled access is going to be needed sooner rather than later.”
Theme park bosses have said they support enhancements to Swanscombe railway station, but stopped short of saying they themselves would be willing to fund it.
Andy Martin, director of communications and strategy at London Resort, said: “It is widely accepted Swanscombe station has needed investment for decades to improve accessibility – we are pleased to see Southeastern recognise the issue.”
Another option would be to seek government financial aid through the Access for All funding pot, which is specifically targeted to improve disabled facilities at railway stations in the UK, with Canterbury East and Chatham stations in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Kent County Council (KCC) launched its rail action plan for 2021 to 2030 last month stating its intention to provide a "substantial contribution" towards public transport infrastructure in north Kent.
This includes the likely extension of London's crossrail service from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet, Swanscombe and Gravesend. But the expansion could be financially dependent on the major leisure park.
Earlier this week, the results of a London Resort public consultation were published, raising concerns about traffic and travel to the major site
In the survey, around 80% said they were worried about London Resort traffic as they seek to keep it separate from local traffic.
Mr Martin added: “Many points were raised about improvements to the wider infrastructure which we are investigating further with other stakeholders including Network Rail."