The right track? Only time will tell

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Opinion -

THE in­tro­duc­tion of high-speed trains be­tween Ash­ford and Lon­don has long been a “sell­ing point” to pro­mote the town. Ash­ford bor­ough coun­cil, Ash­ford’s Fu­ture and es­tate agents have for some time been boast­ing about the ben­e­fits of how get­ting such trains on the track later this year. The scep­ti­cal have been a lit­tle less en­thu­si­as­tic, es­pe­cially when it emerged that com­muters would have to pay ‘top-up’ fares, maybe as much as 30 per cent ex­tra, for the priv­i­lege of faster trips to or from Lon­don. There was the in­evitable de­bate over whether peo­ple would want to move to Ash­ford from Lon­don to take ad­van­tage of cheaper house prices when any sav­ings would be swal­lowed up by the ad­di­tion to their rail sea­son ticket. Well, a re­port this week sug­gests that hun­dreds of ex­tra trav­ellers/com­muters are ex­pected to use the new high-speed trains when they start run­ning in De­cem­ber and that one of the con­se­quences is ex­pected to be a fairly hefty hike – up to 7.5 per cent – in Ash­ford’s prop­erty prices. That’s good news for home­own­ers and the town’s be­lea­guered es­tate agents. Yet we re­main un­con­vinced that the high­speed trains, wel­come as they are, will have such an im­pact. You would need to be a high earner to will­ingly pay an ex­tra 30 per cent for your sea­son ticket and the high-speed des­ti­na­tion – St Pan­cras – isn’t ex­actly slap bang in the mid­dle of Lon­don. Time will tell, which is some­what ironic as time, and cost, will be the two guid­ing prin­ci­ples on which com­muters will se­lect which kind of train they use.

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