“I should like to begin by expressing my sincere thanks to all those who attended my Rail Summit; Network Rail, Southeastern, Southern, the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, Peter Jones (South East Local Enterprise Partnership), Councillors, representatives from local rail groups and of course my constituents.
If you were unable to attend, a full brief and copies of the presentations given will be available on my website shortly.
Constituents often tell me, ‘I’ve heard it all before’ but during yesterday’s rail summit we achieved an ‘absolute commitment’ from Network Rail to improving our rail services in Hastings and Rye. The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin said ‘As of tomorrow we will see the biggest rail investment since the Victorian era and I look forward to working with Amber to continue to improve rail services in Hastings and Rye.’
Network Rail revealed there exists a strong business case and indeed a compelling argument, for a fundamental step change to the service operated over the Marshlink line. However, it remains clear that despite record investment of £38 billion, we need to engage everyone and work together in collaboration to work out how we will take this forward.
I am confident that with the support of local rail groups, commuters, councils, Network Rail and the Department for Transport we will make this happen. Today Network Rail will begin planning and developing their programme for Control Period 6 (2019-2024). Together we can work to raise the profile of our cause, a cause which will act as a significant drive to regeneration and a catalyst for expansion.
We should not underestimate the significance of yesterday’s commitment. The Transport Secretary and indeed many of yesterday’s attendees admitted there had been a legacy of underinvestment in our rail infrastructure, but the attitude has changed.
Ray Chapman of the East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) said; ‘this is a monumental moment, potentially signifying the greatest investment in infrastructure in this area in over 167 years… the new direct link would attract many more tourists into the area, improve the economy further and help businesses flourish.’
It is clear that whilst further work to develop technical and financial details of the scheme will be undertaken by Network Rail, there is a need for cross-party, multi agency collaboration which I will be leading with your support.
The summit concluded with Railfuture presenting the Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin with a picture entitled ‘Shock and Ore’ to celebrate this announcement. The picture illustrated a high speed train at Hastings Rail Station with Patrick McLoughlin responding ‘I get the message’.
I am committed to continue to lobby both Network Rail and the Department for Transport to ensure that extending HS1 to Hastings and Rye is of the highest priority in the upcoming control period. I am absolutely clear about the benefits and I believe now is the time.”