High Speed Ahead?

Cllr Rupert SimmonsThe economic benefits of a high speed link between London, Hastings and Bexhill were unveiled this morning at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.

East Sussex County Council, Hastings Borough Council, and Rother District Council commissioned a report from specialists Mott McDonald to develop the strategic economic case for extending the high speed ‘Javelin’ services from London St Pancras to Hastings and Bexhill.

The trains would cut journey times significantly, with the fastest off-peak journey times between London and Hastings being reduced from over 90 minutes to just 68 minutes, and between London and Bexhill from 100 minutes to 78 minutes.

Mott McDonald’s finding show that a high speed link would :-

– Increase business investment and growth in Hastings and Bexhill with the improved image and perception of the area as a business location

– Increase the attractiveness of the area as a place to work and live

– ‘Supercharge’ the local economy, building upon existing regeneration successes

– Generate more than 200 jobs per year in the local visitor economy worth up to £7.6m per year

– Bring £27 million of benefit and 629 jobs per year in regeneration and economic benefits by 2028

– Bring £354 million of benefit to the local area by 2044.

Cllr Rupert Simmons, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for economy, said: “We are delighted with this report, which makes an overwhelming case for the extension of the high speed rail line into East Sussex.  While the business case is greater than we could have imagined, this is the first step and we will still have to wait for Network Rail’s report on the cost and feasibility of extending the high speed rail line.

“This is about improving the economy and increasing the number of jobs in Hastings and Bexhill by investing in important infrastructure.  As well as encouraging a buoyant job market, reducing the journey time to London by 30 minutes will help to encourage inward investment in the county and improve accessibility for residents and businesses alike. This, on top of the investment being made in the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road and other infrastructure to unlock employment development in the area, will help us create and support a thriving economy in East Sussex.”

Cllr Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Borough Council, added :- “I am very excited at the findings of this report, which makes a very strong business case for extending high speed trains to Hastings and Bexhill.

“We have seen some tremendous investment in the area over the last few years, which has created new jobs, a real boost to our reputation, and the feeling that things really are getting better.

“But the latest national statistics show that Hastings is still the most deprived town in the south east, and the second most deprived seaside resort in the country, so there is still much more work to be done.

“A high speed link to London is absolutely vital for our regeneration to continue, and I hope that this really positive report will help us get the investment in the rail infrastructure that we so desperately need.”

Cllr Carl Maynard, leader of Rother District Council, said: “This report makes a great business case for the extension of the high speed rail network to Bexhill, Hastings and Rye and we welcome it.  Good transport links are vital for Rother’s economy and at the heart of our attempts to improve the infrastructure in the district.  The economic case evidences that high speed rail will offer better connections to London and Europe and increase business investment and growth, thus increasing the economic benefits and attractiveness of the area. The report also evidences the benefit to residents travelling out of the district for work, and how the high speed rail will open up new markets of visitors coming into the area.

“The positive impact this would have on the economy in the district is obvious in the consultant’s report and hugely important, and we now await Network Rail’s report, which we believe should help support the case for high speed rail.”

The full report is available at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/highspeedrail