Specialist project group set up to improve Sandwich station ahead of The Open’s return in 2020
PUBLISHED: 16:53 29 August 2017
Ady Kerry / AK Pictures
Local MP Craig Mackinlay said the golf tournament would be worth some £100m to the Kent economy
A specialist project group has been established to improve Sandwich train station and ensure it can cope with the thousands of visitors set to descend on the town for The Open golf championship in three years’ time.
Bosses announced back in February that the world famous tournament would return to the county for the 15th time in 2020, having last been held at Royal St George’s back in 2011.
Last time it was here, The Open delivered a £77m benefit to the local economy, including some £24.14m of direct spending in Kent, and South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has suggested the deal could pump more than £100m into the county when it returns in 2020.
A total of 180,091 fans flocked to Sandwich in 2011, and of these, some 134,000 spectators came from outside of the county, while images of Kent were broadcast to a worldwide audience of nearly 500 million homes.
Of those attending, 37,000 passengers travelled on the high speed train service from London St Pancras, operated by Southeastern, but Sandwich station struggled to cope with such volumes.
It is designed to accommodate eight-carriage trains, but Southeastern used 12-carriage trains to maximise passengers during the championship.
The longer trains meant the level crossing, which regulates the road access to the golf course, was often closed.
During peak periods, the level crossing was closed for some 40 minutes per hour, which had a knock-on effect, significantly delaying spectators accessing the venue by car, bus and on foot, and resulted in “considerable adverse publicity”.
In addition, the existing passenger bridge over the tracks was not fit to bear the large number of arriving passengers.
Consequently, council chiefs agreed substantial improvements to the station were needed to provide resilience, and a specialist group, which is chaired by Kent County Council and includes representatives from Dover District Council, Network Rail, Southeastern and the Department for Transport, was established earlier this year.
The group has already met twice so far and is due to meet twice monthly going forward.
To help ensure Sandwich is better equipped this time around, council chiefs are proposing an extension of platforms at the station to accommodate longer trains and construction of an additional footbridge linking platform passengers to a pathway leading to the club.
A report issued to Dover councillors ahead of a cabinet meeting on Monday says the group favours a “permanent solution” estimated to cost around £3.5m as opposed to a “semi-permanent solution” which would cost around £1.5m plus another £900,000 per future event.
With a permanent improvement in place, the group says it will “provide assurance for the holding of future Open events at Sandwich”.