Plans have moved forward for a high speed train that would provide Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge with a fast link to Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
Last week engineering consultants Expedition released the first image of their proposed £10billion HS4Air [High Speed for Air] project.
Now the firm will submit their plans to the Department for Transport to attain funding and support in response to a call for ideas within the rail sector.
As revealed by the Times in March, the project would see trains run from Ashford through Tonbridge to Edenbridge on existing routes before switching to a new track, linking to Gatwick and Heathrow.
Described as ‘an M25 for high speed trains’, the route would connect the existing Kent HS1 line to the HS2 route at Denham, north London, serving both airports before joining the Great Western main line.
Some services would stop at Tonbridge. This is likely to see the journey time to both Heathrow and Gatwick cut to less than half an hour. Today it takes around 1hr 45 and 50 minutes from Tonbridge for both stations respectively, with at least one change involved.
There would not be a direct link from Tunbridge Wells, but for passengers would stand to benefit from the service by changing train at Tonbridge.
Alistair Lenczner, Expedition Director, said: ‘The very positive response the HS4Air project has received from various parties suggests that they proposal can expect widespread support as it moves forward.
‘The proposal will also have an important role in stimulating much-needed new housing developments in the south east over the coming decades.’
The link would also speed up international travel, according to Expedition, who claim that by using this line and others, it would be possible to journey from Manchester to Paris in a faster time than it would take to fly the same journey.
Expedition say around 20 per cent of the railway will run in HS4Air tunnels to minimise the impact the project would have on the environment.
Plans have received mixed reviews locally. John Reynolds, Chairman of Tonbridge Line Commuters, said: ‘We would welcome a through service to Gatwick but we would not wish to find any detrimental effect to smaller stations like Leigh and Penshurst.’
Howard Porter, Chairman of Tonbridge & Malling Green Party, said: ‘Many commuters travelling to London will rightly feel the proposed budget might be better spent on improving existing routes.’
The Department for Transport has been approached for a response.