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We can set up new rail link between Kent and northern France in five years, says Mayor of Calais

By Paul Francis

Ambitious plans for a new railway service linking Kent with the Pas de Calais region of France could be back on track - at least according to the Mayor of Calais.

The so-called Transmanche Metro project has been talked about for many years but has been sidelined by lack of money and political will.

But the Calais Mayor Natascha Bouchart signalled a renewed interest in pushing forward the idea on a visit to Kent.

Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart speaking at the reception for Kent businesses at the Holiday Inn, Ashford
Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart speaking at the reception for Kent businesses at the Holiday Inn, Ashford

She said the line could provide a commuter service for people living on both sides of the Channel and offer journey times between the two of just 35 minutes.

Draft plans for the scheme were first drawn up in 2008 by the then government-funded investment agency SEEDA and its French counterpart, the Prefecture of the Nord Pas De Calais.

But it has been in limbo since that time, largely because Eurostar has had an effective monopoly on the High Speed line. That, however, is coming to an end and other operators will be permitted to use the line.

It is this that is behind a push to resurrect the scheme. Ms Bouchart said: “I want to be the politician - supported by the President of my region - to develop this project.

The Mayor of Calais is keen to link stations in northern France to Kent with a cross-Channel metro line
The Mayor of Calais is keen to link stations in northern France to Kent with a cross-Channel metro line

"We are talking about an economic tool and an economic tool that will allow people to cross the Channel in 35 minutes to go to work everyday at a decent price.

“We want to attract commuters who could come to France or the UK and maybe buy houses or property. We are not starting from scratch - the infrastructure is already there.

"The problem that we have had is the problem of competition with Eurostar that is the main operator of the service and imposes its prices and tariffs.”

Mme Bouchart outlined the plan during a visit to Kent (Thursday) designed to woo businesses and underline her commitment to foster good relations between the county and Calais.

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