Published: 00:01, 24 August 2018
| Updated: 09:45, 24 August 2018
Kent County Council looks set to continue with plans for Thanet Parkway Station – despite a lack of government support.
Since announcing proposals, KCC has also come under fire from those in the area who call plans “a waste of money”.
The proposal would see a railway station built just outside Cliffsend on the Ashford International to Ramsgate line.
The latest comment period on the project comes to a close today.
Last year, the government’s Department for Transport rejected the authority’s £8.7m grant application towards the cost of building it.
It has been revealed that the DfT raised concerns over the cost and viability.
In a statement acquired by campaigner Ian Driver through a Freedom of Information request, it said: “The panel considered that the proposal was not yet developed enough to support at this time as the project was still only at the GRIP stage one.
“There were also concerns that the project would require extensive infrastructure work to allow the service to operate as planned, that no funding had been identified to cover the additional cost of this extensive infrastructure work, and that the new station would have a detrimental impact on the existing timetable.”
Issues raised by the DfT went beyond financial concerns – as plans would see just one minute knocked off the time it takes to get to London from Margate or Ramsgate, and the need to redevelop a level crossing had not been met.
In a statement, DfT said: “In particular, the panel was concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate.
“This means that Ramsgate and Margate would benefit from net improvements of only one minute, rather than three minutes as planned in the current journey time improvement scheme.
“In addition, the panel noted that building a new station would require Network Rail to redevelop a nearby level crossing, but that there were no proposals in the business case on how to cover the costs of this.”
The organisation therefore said the proposal “was not yet sufficiently developed to support at this time.”
The idea behind the new station is to increase rail connectivity between east Kent and London by providing access to mainline and high-speed services.
But two consultations have seen unwavering disapproval from those living in Thanet, including from Andrew Wilson, of Minster, who calls the idea “monstrous”.
“I think it will generate a massive house build,” the 62-year-old said.
“It will be a monstrous structure and will really tower over the area, which at the moment is rural. The money could be better spent and it definitely could be better planned. Both Network Rail and the Department for Transport are against it, so it seems to be just KCC who are trying to get it through.”
KCC says it continues to support the proposal.
A spokesman said: “The government’s Journey Time Improvement Scheme (JTI), is expected to be completed in May 2021. It aims to reduce the rail travel time between Ramsgate and Ashford International by three minutes.
“Thanet Parkway will take full benefit of the improved journey time, which is estimated to offer London Stratford International in just 62 minutes and St Pancras International in 69 minutes.
“The New Stations Fund 2 bid was made in November 2016. Since then, the Department for Transport has shown its support for the scheme and included it in the specification for the new South Eastern Rail Franchise, which is due to commence in April 2019.
“The specification compels the new franchise holder to serve the new station as well as to enter into a Station Lease - meaning that they will be responsible for operating and maintaining the station.
“The passenger demand forecasts for the station have been modelled using the industry standard techniques for rail projects.
“The forecasts were validated by an independent consultant for the New Stations Fund 2 bid, and then have been through another period of review and validation for the Local Growth Fund contribution by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.
“This review is ongoing as the project is developed, and therefore KCC is confident of the forecast demand and growth in passenger numbers after the station is opened.
“In addition, by bringing East Kent to within just over an hour to London, the Parkway Station would enable the area to attract greater inward investment, which has the potential to create real economic benefit for communities in this part of the county.”