Eurostar at Ashford International Station
Eurostar at Ashford International Station
Kent’s connectivity to Europe has received a huge boost following a decision to press ahead with investment in state-of-the-art signalling equipment at Ashford International Station. The move will secure the continuation of Ashford’s place on the international rail map and will protect and help create thousands of Kent jobs.
The European Commission has agreed to fund half the £4m project, with the remaining cost to be covered by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership. Without the signalling upgrade, any new train operating company wanting to compete on the cross-Channel market would find it impossible to serve Ashford with modern international trains. Now, the new signals will make sure the town can be incorporated as international rail routes continue to expand.
And new high-speed rail services linking the UK to Europe are likely – for example, German rail company Deutsche Bahn was granted an operating certificate to run passenger services through the Channel Tunnel in 2013 but a launch date was deferred while new trains were ordered.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “This is great news, not only for Ashford, but the whole of the South East. The co-funding will enable the next generation of Eurostar trains to continue to stop at Ashford International Station. It will also make it easier for any new operator on the market to stop at Ashford, something which is important to our reputation as the UK’s international town.
“Ashford is one of the most connected places in the UK. Not only are we just 38 minutes by HS1 trains from central London, we also have direct international connections to Paris, Brussels, Lille, Marseille, Lyon and Avignon.”
Ashford was identified in a recent study by Locate in Kent as the best business location in the county, thanks largely to its connectivity. It’s at the heart of the South East’s transport network, boasting unrivalled rail, road, air and sea links to provide businesses with easy access to 360 million consumers across Europe.
Ashford MP Damian Green said: “The area’s success is based on our excellent transport links and this decision by the EU is a big step forward in enhancing them.”
Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “This is fantastic news for the economy because it means we will continue to have direct rail access to continental Europe. I’m delighted that months of hard work to address this crucial issue has paid-off. This signalling upgrade will ensure that Ashford continues to be served by international rail services, and opens the way for other operators to develop through services to Europe in the future.”
The investment in signalling will secure 1,000 jobs already based in Ashford as a result of the connectivity that international trains afford the town, while a further 1,000 jobs will be created through the continued growth of Ashford and the attraction of access to international services.
The co-funding is from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility. It will go towards fitting the new European signalling standard called ETCS, which stands for European Train Control System. This will allow any international train to call at Ashford in future. Competition for funding was fierce, with more than 700 projects submitted from across Europe. The award will be matched by money from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the South East LEP.
For more information about Ashford visit www.ashfordfor.com
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