Published: 15:46, 15 November 2019
| Updated: 17:16, 25 November 2019
Plans for a new commuter railway station in Thanet have been thrown into doubt after it emerged the estimated cost has spiralled to £34.5 million.
A report by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), discussed by business leaders on Friday, revealed the price tag of the Thanet Parkway development at Cliffsend near Manston has jumped another £6 million.
A call has now been made by SELEP for a review into whether the project - which transport chiefs say will slash journey times to London - still presents value for money, the findings of which will be revealed in February 2020.
In April, a funding package worth almost £28 million was agreed by SELEP, including £14m from the organisation, a £2m contribution from Thanet District Council, £700,000 from the East Kent Spatial Development Company and £10.95m from Kent County Council.
But in the new report, the cost is now being placed at £34.5 million, with KCC shouldering the extra cost.
The controversial new station on the Ramsgate to Ashford International line, aimed at bringing journey times to the capital down to an hour, has divided opinion, with some branding it a "waste of money".
Concerns of overcrowding on trains have also been raised due to the predicted increase in passengers.
In August last year, the government's Department for Transport also rejected KCC's £8.7m grant application towards the cost of building it due to concerns over the price and viability.
Prolific campaigner Ian Driver says the project is "financially and logistically" out of control.
"So much so that a full business case is required to confirm that the project still presents value for money in light of the increase in costs and the threat of passenger overcrowding," he said.
"The answer to better transport to and from Thanet is not a £34.5 million, polluting and environmentally damaging station at Cliffsend, but investing money into improving our already existing stations.
"Plus the provision of safe walking and cycling routes and regular public transport to and from these stations."
But business leaders argue the new station will increase investment to Thanet.
Chair of SELEP Christian Brodie says it is poor accessibility that has discouraged major employers from locating in the area.
"The improved transport links a new Thanet Parkway station will bring will make the area more attractive to employers and will help attract a more highly skilled workforce, in turn supporting the regeneration of the area," he added.
A KCC spokesman said: "A revised cost estimate was received from Network Rail in September and is mainly associated with the requirement to upgrade the nearby level crossings and includes a high level of contingency costs as we are in the early design stage.
"The revised costing is reflected in an updated business case which still shows the project is financially positive and represents very high value for money.
"The business case will be assessed by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Independent Technical Evaluator before any Local Growth Fund is released.
"A report will go to KCC’s cabinet on December 2 with a proposed decision for KCC to fund the remaining gap whilst continuing to explore potential further external funding opportunities and drive down costs through the next design stage."
More by this authorMarijke Hall