Transport charity backs controversial rail plans

Rother Valley Railway
Rother Valley Railway

A charity which campaigns for improved public transport has given its backing to controversial plans to extend the Rother Valley Railway (RVR).

In an announcement this week, The Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) in East Sussex gave its support to the RVR plans to complete a 14-mile section of heritage line between Robertsbridge and Tenterden.

The plans were revealed earlier this year, when RVR announced it had submitted a controverisal Transport Works Act Order (TWAO) application seeking compulsory purchase powers for privately-owned land needed to complete the heritage rail line.

While the plans have proven controversial with the landowners and some Robertsbridge residents, the CfBT believe the scheme would bring a number of benefits to the region.

Derrick Coffee, the CfBT’s county officer for East Sussex, said: “The link would provide access for all to beautiful places without the growing volumes of traffic ill suited to country lanes”.

According to the charity the extension would help counteract the ‘decline of public transport in local villages and towns’ as well as ‘reduce pressure on country lanes which currently experience inappropriately high volumes of traffic.’

The extension scheme has come in for significant criticism since the TWAO was announced. Much of the criticism – aside from the concerns surrounding the potential compulsory purchase of private land – has focused on the proposal for a new level crossing on the A21.

As well as the landowners, the level crossing proposal has come under fire from business owners in Robertsbridge and Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd.

Last week Ms Rudd said: “Not only can these level crossings be dangerous, there are also a number of damaging environmental effects which result from the traffic congestion the crossing would cause. I believe it will cause significant congestion, limit tourists’ accessibility and limit our opportunity to achieve economic growth.”

However, according to Mr Coffee, the CfBT believes the concerns about opening a new level crossing on the A21 are ‘exaggerated’ as the frequency of trains would be far lower than on the national network. CfBT also argue there would be no major problems (and potentially benefits) to the other level crossing locations.

The deadline for submitting comments on the TWAO was, May 31.