Commuters may be offered half price fares if they move to Ebbsfleet garden city says Michael Cassidy, development corporation chairman-designate

Commuters could be offered concessions on rail fares from Ebbsfleet to London in a bid to entice them to move to a new garden city, according to the man set to get construction happening.

Treasury money could be used to give vouchers to train travellers said Michael Cassidy, the chairman-designate of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation.

Mr Cassidy, who is also a non-executive director at Crossrail, said expensive fares on high-speed services to St Pancras could put off potential housebuyers in the area.

A commuter at Ebbsfleet International station
A commuter at Ebbsfleet International station

Instead he hopes to offer new residents a “welcome present” for moving to Ebbsfleet, adding he believes fares should cost half what they do at present. A peak time return from Ebbsfleet to St Pancras costs £31.40.

Mr Cassidy said: “I would like to explore ways in which we could look at the high fares being charged on the route into London. It is unreasonably high at the moment.

“It is a request for minsters to consider whether this is an appropriate situation for vouchers to be given, much like education vouchers elsewhere.

“These would be fare vouchers to make those journeys more affordable.

"It is not going to cost a lot of money but seems to be quite a nice welcome present for people deciding to bring their families to live there.

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation chairman Michael Cassidy
Ebbsfleet Development Corporation chairman Michael Cassidy

"At the moment it is a deterrent to people regularly using the railways because it is £30 a ticket and it should be half that.”

Asked how the subsidised fares would be paid for, Mr Cassidy added: “All the money I will have at my disposal will be treasury money.

“This would be one part of a range of things I will be asking them to fund. It seems to me that at quite low expense it can have a major impact because it makes people feel welcome and supported.”

The Government is analysing feedback from a consultation on whether an urban development corporation should be set up for Ebbsfleet.

New international trains will pull into Ashford after funding for a signal upgrade was approved
New international trains will pull into Ashford after funding for a signal upgrade was approved

Chancellor George Osborne announced in this year’s Budget his aspiration for 15,000 homes to be built in the valley between Gravesend and Dartford.

FTSE 100 commercial property giants Land Securities already has outline planning permission for more than 6,000 homes in the Ebbsfleet Valley, as well as 6m sq ft of commercial space and 3m sqft of retail, leisure and community facilities.

However, only 300 homes have been built so far.

Should a development corporation be set up, it would be able to bypass local planning restrictions in a bid to oversee the garden city’s delivery over 10 years.

Mr Cassidy said: “The crucial reason [for an urban development corporation] is Ebbsfleet International station has been there seven years and nothing has happened.

“Something isn’t quite right and I see my mission as looking at a whole range of aspects of this area and opportunity to see if we can do a bit of unlocking and speed up the process.

“The government are extemely keen on increasing the housing supply particularly in the South East and this site is just sitting there waiting for that to happen.”

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