In the second of two articles on last week’s MarshLink Action Group (MLAG) public meeting, this week we look at the likelihood of High Speed One (HS1) coming to Rye, and the opposition that the idea has already generated.
The MLAG meeting heard three linked presentations. The first by Richard Williams, MLAG Committee member, who fed back the results of their recent survey of travelling public on the Marshlink link line; the second from Roger Blake, director of Railfuture; and the final speaker was Keith Glazier, leader of ESCC but speaking in the capacity of Chairman of Transport for the South East, a sub-national transport board covering 16 local authorities along the south coast that cover all forms of transport.
Upgrading the train infrastructure featured highly in their presentations. Both Roger Blake and Keith Glazier spoke of the enabling work that would need to take place prior to the HS1 ever coming to Rye. Some of the work, such as opening up an additional platform at Ashford for HS1 services, is hoped to be completed by the end of 2020. This would allow a cross platform interchange from the Marshlink train on platform 1 and HS1 services on platform 2.
Roger Blake outlined the immense work that would need to be undertaken on the Marshlink line to get it ready for HS1 services – from strengthening the rail embankments to closing most of the unmanned pedestrian crossings along the line. This enabling work alone would reduce the travel time to Ashford from Rye by 7 minutes – or in other words by around 30%. If you add this to a cross platform interchange to HS1 at Ashford, a commute from Rye to London would be made much easier even without HS1. And this is key to the debate about extending the HS1 service to Rye.
Michael Boyd, Mayor of Rye, spoke with passion on behalf of those who are opposed to the introduction of the HS1 service to Rye because he believed it would turn Rye into a commuter satellite to London. A number of people in the audience agreed with the Mayor’s opinion but for those travelling on the Marshlink service, and who responded to their recent survey, there was overwhelming support. 71% supported the idea of a HS1 service to Rye with only 4% not supporting (25% listed no preference). The survey was carried out over a period of two weeks, at different times of the day and received over 450 responses.
Local MP Amber Rudd has backed the HS1 extension to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill and an attendee at the MLAG meeting raised the possibility of the HS1 service running through Rye without stopping. It would be interesting to hear what Rye News readers thought of that idea.
It’s impossible to know if HS1 will ultimately come to Rye but what came out of the MLAG meeting is that it’s a long way off and an awful lot of work needs to take place on the Marshlink line before it can even be considered. That’s not to say it won’t happen but that a strong case has to be built and local concerns addressed.