Southeastern Railway CEO David Statham tonight promised at the Annual Kent Rail Summit in County Hall to look at repainting Hollingbourne Station which is very shabby. At a previous Summit he was asked to do something about the Station Lane lights by a representative of Hollingbourne Parish Council and these were repaired shortly afterwards so there is hope that Hollingbourne might be smartened up.
The 11th Annual Rail Summit was organised by Kent County Council and was attended by representatives of local Councils from all over Kent including Hollingbourne Parish Council.
The meeting was chaired by KCC Councillor Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for Transport, and speakers included representatives from the Southeastern Railway, Network Rail, Eurostar, and Eurotunnel.
Mr Statham advised the meeting that Southeastern now achieves 86% customer satisfaction levels but may lose their franchise at the end of March 2020 if it is not renewed. He also could not give an assurance that the high speed services from Maidstone West will continue after March 2020 despite the fact that MId Kent was badly blighted during the HS1 construction period.
Mike Smith from Network Rail reported that although season ticket sales were down actual passenger numbers were up over the last few years. He also said that the rail network needs to meet the needs of people and that a lack of cohesion existed between the interested parties and that this was not helping.
Mr Renaud Thillaye from Eurostar talked about additional services to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Paris from Ashford in the near future. It was reported that international passenger numbers are only 10.9 million a year which is only about one third of the number forecast by BR/SETEC in 1989 when they did presentations to justify building CTRL/HS1 in Hollingbourne Village Hall after the announcement of the route through Cotuam’s Meadow.
Mr John Keefe from Eurotunnel assured the meeting that Eurotunnel would be ready for Brexit when the UK leaves the Customs providing lorry drivers file their Customs documentation before they arrive at Eurotunnel which handles 69 billion euros of UK/EU trade in both directions each year. The principal destinations of lorries passing through Hollingbourne on the way to Eurotunnel are in descending order Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, and Austria.
It was explained that the Tunnel was built following the Treaty of Canterbury in 1986 which required both the UK and French Governments to always ensure that there is a “rapid flow of traffic”. Mr Keefe went into some detail as to how lorries would be treated in both directions and it is critical that lorries going to France register with HMRC on line before they get to Eurotunnel mainly via the M20 through Hollingbourne. Once they get into the Eurotunnel terminal they may still be held for another 24 hours in France by the Douane before being allowed to proceed or being sent back to the UK.
Owing to space constraints in the UK terminal in Folkestone, most of the Customs processing for UK bound lorries will be done in France and there will be no checks as they arrive in the UK. It seems that the whole project is vast as some 6000 lorries a day pass through Eurotunnel plus about 8000 cars and coaches. It carries some 26% of UK/EU trade and lorries come to the Tunnel from all over the UK and Europe including Spain who provide many perishable foodstuffs to the UK market. Other key customers include the automotive sector where “just in time” deliveries are critical.
Finally Mr Keefe confirmed that the Tunnel has substantial spare capacity for rail freight particularly at night.
The last speaker was Stephen Gasche from Kent County Council who talked about Kent’s hopes for the future.
Questions followed and Mr Statham assured the audience that Southeastern had no plans to cut passenger services to allow more freight from the Tunnel on to local lines following Brexit if they were delays on the ferries and elsewhere as had been suggested in some national newspapers.
A number of people in the audience raised concerns about the capacity of the Kent rail network and the ability to cater for commuters from the thousands of homes that the Government wants built in Kent.
Pictured below (top) are the speakers at the Rail Summit and (below) is a schematic of how Eurotunnel will handle outgoing lorries after Brexit providing they register with HMRC before they arrive at Eurotunnel. Bottom is Hollingbourne Station.