Industry leaders, ministers and MPs met in March in Hastings for the third time in as many years to discuss the future of transportation in the area and the town’s road and rail links to London and elsewhere.
Chairman of the Summit and Co Chairman of East Sussex Rail Alliance, Ray Chapman, underlined the importance of the meeting: “Amber Rudd raised the tempo of this increasingly vital annual meeting by expanding into the very real needs of Hastings and East Sussex to focus on rail and road improvement.”
Paul Best, Senior Strategic Planner at Network Rail set out the incremental steps which can be taken to deliver High Speed Rail from London to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill. He confirmed that a combination of station remodelling work at Ashford and the development of hybrid trains – which will be considered for investment for the first time by Network Rail as part of the forthcoming Kent Route Study – could deliver truly significant cuts in journey times between the local area and the capital.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs the Southern franchise, and Southeastern presented on how both operators are working to improve on recent poor levels of service.
Amber Rudd Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said: “It was good to see both companies accepting their fair share of the blame for the difficulties passengers have experienced. Faced with fully understandable criticism from local commuters, I’m pleased both have plans in place for immediate and longer-term service improvements and, vitally, to improve the provision of information to customers.”
The Summit’s keynote speaker, Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP travelled to Hastings with Amber Rudd on the A21 which Rudd hopes to upgrade to a dual carriageway all the way to the coast.
Jones said that initial analysis work is beginning to identify where improvement works are needed in the country ahead of the delivery of the next Road Investment Strategy from 2020, adding that seeing the condition of the road in person helped him understand why the region is so desperately in need of road improvements.
Amber commented: “I’m pleased the minister was able to travel down the A21 with me and neighbouring MP Greg Clark on his way to this event in Hastings. We felt it was vital the Roads Minister witnessed first-hand the great need for additional investment in this route which could become a hugely beneficial link between our area and London.”
She added: “The minister recognises the value of better transport infrastructure for our area and the fantastic opportunities it will bring. It was great to hear his confirmation that Highways England will assess parts of the A21 for additional dualling.”