A Kent steam train will reconnect with London with the renewal of a missing link, it has been revealed.
The Kent and East Sussex Railway (KESR) line is set to be extended with the restoration of a section that has gone un-used for years.
Currently, KESR runs steam locomotives to and from Tenterden and Bodiam in neighbouring county East Sussex.
However, affiliated charity Rother Valley Railway (RVR) has been trying for some years to gain permission to reopen a lost link in the line to connect it with Robertsbridge Junction, to the east of Bodiam.
After an application was made under the Transport and Work Act 1992, the campaign eventually went to a public inquiry by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2021, which was finally decided in favour of reopening the line on Tuesday, after considerable delay.
The move will connect Tenterden with tourist traffic coming from London via Robertsbridge – which is just over a 60 minute journey direct from London Charing Cross.
As part of the application, workers will establish new level crossings across three roads – most notably including the A21 outside Robertsbridge.
The report by the DfT surmised that while there would be delays on the affected roads because of these new crossings, the disruption would be at a level where traffic could cope.
“The Inspector concludes that the effect of the proposed level crossing on the free flow of traffic and congestion on the A21 would be acceptable and would not weigh materially against the Order scheme,” it added.
National Highways had originally objected to the plans because of the A21’s crossing, however this objection was withdrawn in August last year.
RVR Trustee Mike Hart said the charity was “delighted” at the news the plans had been approved.
“The decision is warmly welcomed by Rother Valley Railway and our colleagues at Kent & East Sussex Railway.
“We are looking forward to working with everyone to bring the new railway to fruition,” he added.
“Work will start at the earliest opportunity to carry out the land and ecological surveys. Substantive physical works are unlikely to start before next year.
“Once the reconnection is complete, visitors from all over the country will be able to come to Robertsbridge by mainline railway before boarding a Kent and East Sussex Railway heritage train to visit Bodiam Castle, Tenterden Town and other local attractions.
“We look forward to working with others to get the job done and the reopening of the Kent and East Sussex Railway through to Robertsbridge Junction Station.”