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High speed rail network pumps £300m into Kent economy

PUBLISHED: 10:14 13 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:04 13 September 2017

High speed train

High speed train

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A new report has assessed the huge economic impact of HS1 since it began in 2007

Kent’s high speed rail network has contributed more than £300m to the local visitor economy, new research has found.

The train line, which has run from London’s St Pancras International via international stations in Ebbsfleet and Ashford for 10 years, boosted the county’s economy by almost £73m last year alone.

HS1 Ltd, the company that owns and operates High Speed 1 (HS1), has released the findings of the new wave of consumer research by Visit Kent and Destination Research Ltd, which shows the full extent of the rail line’s contribution to the last decade of growth for Kent.

Since 2010, leisure journeys to the county via HS1 have increased almost nine-fold from 100,000 to 890,000 in 2016, with around of third of Kent visitors citing HS1 as having influenced their decision to choose the county, while some 47 per cent of all rail visitors to the county travelled via the HS1 service.

For every leisure journey made in 2016, £81.65 was added to the local economy – a total of £72.7m, with the total economic impact since 2007 standing at a massive £311m.

HS1’s activity has also led to the creation and support of 5,766 tourism sector jobs in Kent, and almost three quarters of tourism businesses in the county believe that leisure tourism has increased as a result of HS1.

The findings further demonstrate the steady growth of Kent’s visitor economy over the last decade, and the full economic impact of ongoing investment in leisure and tourism.

Kent’s visitor economy is now worth £3.6bn, with the county welcoming more than 60 million visitors in 2015.

Jonathan Neame, chairman of the county’s destination management organisation, Visit Kent, said: “We were pleased to produce this report in partnership with HS1, and to be able to clearly show the direct value of leisure journeys on the wider economy.

“HS1 and the availability of high speed rail connections to London has played a huge role in our county’s growth, as our tourism businesses have said themselves.

“Many organisations continue to work together to create a single strategy for tourism that helps stimulate ongoing investment in transport, accommodation and attractions so that Kent’s visitor economy continues to thrive.”

The research was conducted over a four-month period, using train path statistics as well as data gathered from tourists and Kent businesses, to understand the true impact of HS1 on the visitor economy.

Kent is now recognised as one of Europe’s top tourism hotspots, having been voted the best family destinations by Lonely Planet in 2015.

The county’s high-speed rail links to London and Europe are frequently cited as a big selling point to domestic staycationers and international tourists.

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said: “This report articulates the very clear link between investment in infrastructure and growth.

“As a major gateway county it is essential that Kent continues to have high quality transport links and this report highlights this as a key reason for people to choose Kent as a destination.

“With the planned improvements in other parts of our rail network we will see more tourism, more investment and more major events such as The Open golf tournament in 2020.”

Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1 added: “Growth in the number of passengers using the line is well-documented, but this report shines a light on the role HS1 is playing in supporting Kent’s tourism economy.

“While the line is more frequently used by commuters, it is clear that it has played a huge role in making Kent one of the most popular destinations in the country and Europe.

“HS1 is still a young line and what has been achieved to date has been done in a relatively short period of time and we are excited about its impact growing in the coming years.”

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