This day marks the 29th anniversary of the first route announcement for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link when the alignment through Cotuam’s Meadow was chosen instead of the three previously publicised routes through Kent including the one that would have gone through Culpepper Close. It was not until the passing of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act in 1996 that the Route was finalised. Most affected residents did not receive compensation for the blight on their homes until 2007.
At all times during the consultation and construction period of the CTRL, now known as HS1, it was made clear that only passenger trains would use the line. HS1 is currently carrying about a third of the expected passenger traffic and HS1 have previously announced that they wish to run freight trains on the line. The current passenger traffic is split between international and commuter trains which did not form part of the original plans. Unfortunately the commuter service does not stop near Hollingbourne so local residents have to continue to use the South Eastern Trains service which takes just over an hour to get to London. South Eastern Train fares from Hollingbourne and other stations in the area have been increased to part finance the rolling stock on the HS1 commuter services.
The line cost over £5 billion to build and was over budget and the 12 million passengers a year who use the line are not enough to make the line financially viable. At one time it looked as though the subsidies to the line were equivalent to £1 per passenger mile. Since the announcement of HS2 which is the proposed new high speed line from London to the North, there have been a number of visits to Hollingbourne from interested parties to see the impact of HS1 on the village.Since completion at enormous cost to the tax-payer both HS1 and the UK’s 40% interest in Eurostar, the train operator, have been sold off to foreign interests at a loss.
The campaign against the line was fought by many villages over a number of years and there was a minor victory in 1993 when the Government agreed to build a cut and cover tunnel under Eyhorne Street at the entrance to the village from the A20 instead of the planned cutting. This followed a well publicised offer by residents to fund the £5 million tunnel themselves. After raising £100 and with the benefit of international media coverage, the Government’s Transport Minister Mr Roger Freeman agreed to fund the tunnel whilst on a visit to Kent during the period of the widespread publicity about Hollingbourne’s offer.Hollingbourne Parish Council. For a report at the time in The Independent about the tunnel campaign please go to http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/jim-white-on-friday-if-they-wont-build-us-a-tunnel-well-dig-our-own-the-channel-rail-link-is-casting-2325632.html
Another long standing transport and environmental issue is the surface noise on the M20 between Junctions 8 and 9. The Highways Agency promised to resurface the motorway to bring it up to EU standards by 2005. No date has been given for this work which will improve the quality of life in Hollingbourne. The matter has been raised with local elected representatives on countless occasions over the years to no avail.