Published: 10:00, 24 March 2017
| Updated: 10:26, 24 March 2017
Plans to connect Tenterden’s Kent & East Sussex Railway with the London-Hastings main line have finally been approved.
The next stage now is to seek the required Act of Parliament to secure the final go-ahead for construction of the missing two-mile link to begin.
Once that is achieved money is in place to start the work and if everything progresses to plan the entire 14-mile route from Tenterden to Robertsbridge could be up and running in two years’ time.
Rother Valley Railway (RVR) says it is “delighted” that its application for restoration of the Northbridge Street to Junction Road section of the Robertsbridge to Bodiam Reconnection Project has been approved by Rother District Council (RDC).
At the Eastern end RVR has rebuilt this section of the railway from Bodiam to Junction Road so KESR was able to start running passenger trains in 2011.
At the Robertsbridge end of the line, RVR has purchased further land since 2006 and the reconnection between Rother Valley Railway and the Network Rail main line was formally opened by Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail in December 2016.
The planning approval is for the central two mile section of the railway to be restored, which has been granted despite concerns from some about level crossings and excessive parking in Robertsbridge.
In a statement this week RVR chairman Gardner Crawley said: “Their fears will be addressed as the scheme progresses and it is to be hoped that the economic benefits of the scheme will become apparent.
“The remaining landowners have additionally expressed concern and RVR fully appreciates that a railway crossing their farms represents some disruption.
“RVR has met with the three landowners and will continue to engage with them with a view to acquiring the original track bed by agreement.”
The work will be financed by private benefactors and RVR says independent studies have shown that the reinstatement of RVR will bring economic benefits in excess of £2m per year to the area.
The total cost of the entire project is expected to be somewhere between £6 and £7m.
When complete the line will be operated by KESR using its staff, rolling stock, and procedures.
The railway track has been laid on nearly a third of the 3.5-mile route between Robertsbridge and Bodiam and a new Robertsbridge Junction station is being created, which has a five-coach capacity platform and sits adjacent to Network Rail’s mainline station.
The route from Tenterden to Bodiam is 10.5 miles.
RVR spokesman Mark Yonge said: “This is a real red letter day and we are extremely pleased permission has now been granted.
“We will be applying for final permission now from the Department of Transport which will require an Act of Parliament. Once that is secured we will be working towards a spring 2019 target date to finish the work.”