Rail chiefs make fresh push for direct link between Kent and Gatwick airport
PUBLISHED: 14:28 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:38 16 May 2017
Kent County Council wants to see a train service between the airport and Edenbridge, Tonbridge and Ashford
Kent rail chiefs are pushing the government to include a link between the west of the county and Gatwick airport in the next franchise, Kent News can reveal.
At its annual rail summit at County Hall this week, Kent County Council bosses outlined what they want to get out of the deal for train services around the county over the next decade.
At the heart of its plans, principal transport planner for rail, Stephen Gasche said, was establishing a regular service to the Sussex airport - located barely 15 miles from some towns and villages in the west of the county.
The government is currently consulting on how best to run rail services in the south east when the current franchise, operated by Southeastern, comes to an end next year.
“The idea proposed by the Department for Transport was the possibility of a future inter-regional service linking together the Reading to Gatwick service, which is run by Great Western, with a service that carries on via Edenbridge and Tonbridge to Ashford,” Mr Gasche told us.
“So you would actually have an inter-regional service going from Ashford to Reading going via Gatwick and that would knit together the different parts of the south east region outside London with each other and with Gatwick.
“If that were possible either in this franchise or beyond it, that’s something we’d strongly support.
“We had consultants prepare a business case a few years ago to look at a service from Ashford to Gatwick, but unfortunately it didn’t stack up for a positive business case which the Department for Transport has to have to consider any new rail service.
“We think this new proposal is one that’s well worth looking at, with the way demand is growing for regional rail transport.
“Great Western have been very successful in developing the Reading, Guildford and Gatwick line, so much so that they’re now operating two trains an hour.
“We want to build on that and see if we can work with them and have something that runs across to Kent because we really need a rail link from Ashford, Tonbridge and Edenbridge to the airport.”