Hastings hope for high-speed rail extension

Hastings rail summit Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin addressed the summit with Amber Rudd

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A high-speed rail link from London could be extended into East Sussex after the idea received backing from Network Rail and the government.

Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, Amber Rudd, said there was an "absolute commitment" to support extending HS1 from Ashford in Kent to Hastings.

An extension would mean a 78-minute journey time from Bexhill to Kings Cross and 68 minutes from Hastings.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said it would be "transformational".

Following a rail summit held in Hastings on Monday he said the case had been made very strongly for HS1 and the Javelin trains.

"It is looking like a fairly positive case," he said.

"What we are seeing is a regeneration of how important the railways are to our country."

'Regeneration of area'

Local authorities and transport user groups were also represented at the summit meeting, along with Southeastern and Network Rail.

"We got an absolute commitment from Network Rail and the secretary of state to support bringing High Speed One to Hastings," said Ms Rudd.

"It is going to be a phenomenal change for the regeneration of the area."

The shortest current journey time from Hastings to London Bridge is 85 minutes.

Labour's Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, tweeted that the rail summit was "upbeat".

Network Rail announced on Monday it had assigned £2.3bn of investment to increase the number of seats available and improve stations in the South East from 2014 to 2019.

Among the pledges were improvements to the line between Hastings and Ashford, but any extension of HS1 would be a longer-term project.

Ray Chapman, from East Sussex Rail Alliance, said: "I am extremely optimistic that Patrick McLoughin has given a seal of approval to take this forward from where the project is today to actual delivery in 2019 and beyond."

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