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Grant Shapps has pledged to prioritise a fast train service between Hastings and London - but what would be the cost of upgrading the Marshlink, at present served by Southern's two-coach service, and other rail infrastructure, to accommodate Javelin trains, asks Peter Chowney?

Grant Shapps has pledged to prioritise a fast train service between Hastings and London – but what would be the cost of upgrading the Marshlink, at present served by Southern’s two-coach service, above, and other rail infrastructure to accommodate Javelin trains? asks Peter Chowney.

Tories under fire on rail pledge and Brexit effects on NHS

Labour’s parliamentary candidate Peter Chowney has questioned Grant Shapps’ pledge to prioritise the introduction of a fast train service between Hastings and London if the Tories are re-elected. Meanwhile the Lib Dems has revealed figures showing increasing numbers of EU nationals deserting the NHS since the Brexit vote. Nick Terdre reports.

Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield, is reported as pledging to prioritise the introduction of the 140mph Javelin trains between London and Hastings line if the Tories are re-elected – a promise which also assumes he would be re-appointed as transport minister by Boris Johnson. The trains would travel to Hastings via the Marshlink between Ashford and Rye and continue to Bexhill and Eastbourne.

According to a report in Hastings in Focus, Shapps was responding to lobbying by Conservative candidates Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings & Rye), Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) and Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne).

Shapps’ promise does not form part of the Conservative manifesto, which as far as the South-East is concerned, only specifies a commitment to extend contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing to 200 more stations.

Peter Chowney.

Peter Chowney.

Labour’s Peter Chowney questioned Shapps’ promise which, he says, would cost “upwards of £20 billion”, based on the £400 million-per-mile cost of the current HS2 project linking London to the North. Besides replacing track, such a project would involve a “major restructuring [of] the station set-up at Ashford International.”

“How will they modify the Marshlink line to raise the speed limit above the current 40mph?,” Chowney asks. “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.”

To suggest that the Javelin trains utilised by such a service would travel at 140 mph between Hastings and Ashford was also misleading: “In practice the speed would be nothing like that.”

Cutting train times to London appears to be high on all local politicians’ wishlists, but Chowney notes that although 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, and in the South East generally, and then a fully-funded programme of improvements, not one-off vanity projects,” he said.

“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 Marshlink line a priority.”

NHS staffing crisis

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats claim that Brexit is causing an exodus of EU staff from the NHS: this year 84 have left East Sussex Healthcare Trust, bringing the total in the three years since the Brexit vote to 460, they say.

Staff departures from the local trust are part of a “worrying national trend,” whereby “over 3,250 NHS staff from the EU have left the health service so far this year, including 1,116 nurses,” bringing the total in the last three years to more than 11,600.

The figures have been compiled from responses to Freedom of Information requests sent to 50 hospital trusts.

Staff shortages will get worse under Tory plans to introduce visa fees and an NHS surcharge on EU nationals working in the NHS, which would see  an EU nurse charged £1,089 in the first year and £3,589 over five years, the Lib Dems state.

Former Hollington GP Dr Emlyn Jones.

Former Hollington GP Dr Emlyn Jones.

“These shocking figures reveal the damage Brexit has already done to the NHS in East Sussex and it’s set to get worse under the Tories,” said former Hollington GP and upcoming Lib Dem councillor candidate Dr Emlyn Jones.

“The Conservatives’ obsession with Brexit has already cost our NHS dearly. Now the Tories want to clobber hard-working NHS staff with a nurse tax that will cost them thousands to come and work in the NHS. It’s no wonder that NHS staff from the EU in East Sussex are leaving their posts. Unfortunately it’s patient care that will suffer as a result.”

The Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Nick Perry added, “Only the Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit to protect our NHS. We will make clear to staff from the EU that they are valued, tackle the staffing crisis, and invest an extra £35 billion in health and social care.”

The Conservative candidate Sally-Ann Hart has been asked to comment on both the Lib Dem’s and Labour’s interventions.


Posted 17:18 Wednesday, Dec 4, 2019 In: Election 2019


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  1. Bolshie

    While all of this is giving me a Migraine reading the article, I do agree with the comments. Harold and Mrs Doubtfire have offered here. However, as for DAR to vote for Chowney as the “least worse option” is for me a throw away vote. And I hate to say DAR we cannot, repeat cannot afford to have a Labour open door immigration policy. Afford meaning financial, resources, facilities and welfare for a massive influx.
    Looking at the quotes from him in this article, I have to ask what does he really know pragmatically when it comes to these issues.
    And if he is such an authority on the train/travel issues the why hasn’t he taking into account all the years he has been in the borough instigated long ago this “properly planned -out review of the transport infrastructure in this area.”
    Cllr Chowney is one of these career politicians who has had no real business background, certainly not that I am aware of. Yet he like others with a similar background always appear to know what we want. What we don’t want. And how we want it.
    I note the comment concerning his “environmental record,” yes it is appalling and one thing not mentioned is his £80K of public money on the solar farm for the Country Park that will no doubt at that cost be telling us the loss of ten acres on the AONB site is a spiffy idea.

    Comment by Bolshie — Monday, Dec 9, 2019 @ 20:46

  2. DAR

    Both Harold and Ms Doubtfire make valid points. Harold’s point about Hastings becoming a dormitory town is happening already, and Ms Doubtfire is quite right to call out Chowney’s hypocrisy re: the environment. However, I shall probably hold my nose and vote for the chump as the least-worst option available even though Labour’s immigration stance is hopeless. Everything stems from the size of a population, and net migration has seen an 8 million increase in 20 years). How can authorities and public services plan ahead if they have no idea how many people are to be catered for? That’s why we’ve got housing and public service problems. This isn’t xenophobia, it’s just an obvious fact. I like some of Labour’s renationalisation policies, but there are too many. Water, rail, mail is enough for now.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, Dec 9, 2019 @ 13:37

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    All politicians of whatever ilk come up with great ideas, promises and heartfelt wishes whenever it suits….the big one at the moment appears to be the environment – but how can our Leader Peter Chowney shout about the environment when he appears oblivious to the amount of trees which are cut down every year here for development sometimes simply because residents do not like the shade the trees cast over their gardens and what about all the land which is bulldozed without proper mitigation procedures in place to protect wildlife?… We lost the historic Hollington Valley and a wonderful ancient oak to make way for a by pass which has taken years to construct and remains unfinished…despite millions already spent on this road to nowhere…
    The Labour leader in this town needs to take off his rose coloured specs and see what is really happening here. He cannot fool everyone all of the time.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Dec 9, 2019 @ 10:17

  4. Harold

    Be careful for what you wish for, if and its a great big IF, the train line was improved and remember Amber Rudd promised this in 2010, we could end up with more people from London buying second homes or holiday homes, driving up local prices. Secondly many towns like Ashford, Burgess Hill and others where people working in London chose to live, have become dormitory towns, in that the people leave early to travel to London, return late go straight home destroying the local economy for pubs and restaurants and more. If this money was to be invested in Hastings area might there not be higher priorities? How many who would pay for this service would ever use it? It seems to me every local MP has a “pipe dream” or “vanity” project one which gives you great headlines, but if it never happens you can simply blame someone else. The MP in Folkestone wants a new Power Station, it will never happen, but ever so often it features on the front page of the local papers and looks good on election leaflets. Our High Speed railway falls into the same game.

    Comment by Harold — Thursday, Dec 5, 2019 @ 09:26

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