£34 million on a new station that will increase journey time from Thanet to London: a ‘robust business case’… apparently

This is what a (£34 million) white elephant looks like

Sometimes a planning decision leaves you struggling for words – and that by Kent County Council’s planning committee to approve a parkway station that will increase journey times from Thanet to London certainly hits the spot.
Councillors decided by eight votes to five to approve the £34 million Thanet Parkway project, choosing to put aside a Department for Transport statement from 2018 that its panel was “concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate”.
The county council argument has been that the station will in fact cut journey times to London by three minutes – yes, you read that correctly: three minutes – although it is by no means clear how even that laughably small reductionwill be achieved.
Extraordinarily, Thanet now has eight railway stations.
The committee made its decision in a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2.   
It is telling that committee members representing Thanet all voted against the scheme regardless of their party affiliation – but what do they know?
Clearly the statement by Sharon Thompson, the county council’s head of planning applications, that “We are confident the business case is robust” carried more weight, despite a lack of supporting evidence.   
KentOnline reported how committee vice-chairman Dick Pascoe dismissed the idea that Thanet would be oversupplied with train stations by talking about Chinese restaurants: “A Chinese restaurant wanted to open in a Kent area where there were several Chinese restaurants and we did not say no,” he apparently said.
How £34 million for a scheme that will increase journey times represents a robust business case is something you might like to ponder over your evening Horlicks. As for the Chinese restaurants thing, perhaps it’s best not to think about it.
For more on this baffling decision, click here    

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Thanet Parkway railway station: is this the most expensive white elephant we’ve spotted for a while?

Early impressions of a Thanet Parkway station

Just weeks after the announcement that Kent County Council was facing the biggest financial crisis in its history, its officers are recommending that a £34 million Thanet Parkway railway station be approved.
The officers claim the development of the station will enable journey times from Thanet to London to be cut by three minutes… and yes, that is put forward as a positive.
KCC planning committee is to decide on the scheme during a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2, from 10am.
Just to clarify a little background to that impending decision: a cost of £34 million (the initial estimate was £11 million), the loss of some 23 acres of high-quality farmland, no permanent station staff and no commercial bus services… all for a saving of three minutes’ journey time.
And even that alleged saving is very much up for debate. A damning Department for Transport statement from 2018 said its panel was “concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate.”
So the time-saving from Thanet to London is, in truth, down to one minute, while the journey from Ramsgate to Ashford, for example, would actually take longer!
Then factor in the added driving time for travellers using the Parkway rather than existing stations such as Margate and Ramsgate (and the resulting congestion) and it’s difficult to see any benefit to this scheme at all.
South East Local Enterprise Partnership has granted £14 million towards it, the government £12m and Thanet District Council some £2m. That leaves some £6m for the county council to pay.
It is reported that KCC could have to make up to £130 million savings… Thanet Parkway station might be a very good place to start.

  • To read more about the (very expensive) Thanet Parkway white elephant, click here

Thursday, August 27, 2020