Meeting a pledge to ‘fast-track’ local rail services would cost a Conservative government upwards of £20 billion according to Labour.
Hastings In Focus reported earlier this week that fast-tracking fast trains to Hastings was going to be top of the list for an incoming Conservative government when Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said he would ‘prioritise’ the introduction of the 140mph Javelin Trains on the Hastings line if his party wins next month.
But Local Labour campaigners say the Conservative’s statement skirted around the costs which they claim would be £400 million-per-mile, the same as the cost of the current HS2 project linking London to the North. Labour claims that in addition to replacing track, a major restructuring of the station set-up at Ashford International would also be required.
“How will they modify the Marshlink line to raise the speed limit above the current 40mph?,” asked Labour’s Peter Chowney. “How much will the signalling, bridge and track works cost to achieve that?
“It’s rich of the Tories to allege what they claim are uncosted commitments by Labour when they produce this. It is another Tory promise they know can’t be delivered.”
Mr Chowney said: “Former MP Amber Rudd promised in 2015 that the work to bring Javelin trains to Hastings would be in the next Network Rail control period. It wasn’t.”
“What’s needed is a properly planned-out review of the transport infrastructure in this area…”
He says it was also misleading that the Javelin trains would travel at 140 mph from Hastings to Ashford, pointing out that is the top speed of Javelin trains between cities.
“The Javelin trains they are proposing may reduce commuting times, at great cost, but would do nothing to help local manufacturers get their goods in and out of Hastings.”
He added: “Several schemes to do this have been scrapped. Are they gong to electrify the line? If not, are they intending to use bi-mode battery, diesel or hydrogen fuel cell Javelin trains – none of which yet exists?
“What’s needed is a properly planned-out review of the transport infrastructure in this area, and in the South East generally, and then a fully-funded programme of improvements, not one-off vanity projects.
“There has been great work done by Transport for the South East, chaired by the Conservative leader of East Sussex County Council Keith Glazier – but none of their plans mention making the Marsh Link line a priority.
“We need a strategic transport network that’s designed to minimise climate change as well as speed up journey times.”
As part of its national programme Labour says it would bring the railways back into public ownership, cap fares and start a rolling programme of electrifying the rail network.
Hear what Peter Chowney had to say when he spoke to Hastings In Focus at the start of the election campaign… click the link below