Despite desperate manipulation of the truth to show a fictious success, a report to be discussed by Kent County Council’s Scrutiny Committee next week cannot duck the unavoidable fact that Thanet Parkway Station is an unmitigated financial disaster which, when the final bills come in, is likely to cost taxpayers north of £50 million.
The report triumphantly, but falsely, claims that since opening in May 2023 “station patronage has averaged 200 passenger trips per day this is already half the number of daily trips forecast in the business case by the end of year one) with total passenger numbers already reaching 10,000”.
These figures are simply not true and do not stand up to critical examination. Neither does the assumption in the report that Parkway station business plan targets are well on their way to being met. This report is, as they say in polite circles, a stranger to the truth. Here’s why.
First up. the figure of 200 passenger trips per day is misleading because KCC almost certainly double counts those making a return journey to and from Parkway on the same day. This means that the actual number of unique passengers could be halved to an average 100 per day.
The Office of Road and Rail which is the source of many transport statistics says in relation to rail passenger number reports that:- “Known problems in the data capture include those relating to travelcards, return and single journey tickets, multiple tickets, rail staff passes, ticketless travel and other rail systems”. It is certain therefore that the claim of 200 passengers a day from Parkway is a significant overestimate.
Since its opening and until 31 October South Eastern trains who operate the HS1 service are offering a discount of £10 per person if they spend £50 or more on a ticket from Parkway and £5 for spending £20 or more on a ticket from Parkway. These deals only apply to e-tickets bought on line from southeastern.
This deal has undoubtedly caused a temporary increase in passenger numbers which will of course plumet when it is withdrawn. This might also explain why as the KCC report notes “weekend passenger numbers have outstripped the business case forecast” – yes indeed what’s not to like about a subsidised trip to London on the weekend with friends and family.
But as you and I know many, if not most, people treating themselves to these cheap tickets will not begin their journey at Parkway. With one of these e-tickets there is nothing to stop you beginning and ending your journey at Birchington or Ramsgate for example whilst for statistical purposes the number crunching computer will classify you as leaving from and returning to Parkway. This means yet again, that the claimed “200 passenger trips per day” is utter balderdash.
Finally the limited period free car parking deal might well have led some people to use Parkway station. But when this deal is shortly discontinued, user numbers are likely to decline.
For a large County Council like KCC to make what amounts to be false claims about the number of passengers using a railway station which it had had built a great public expense, is to insult and abuse the trust of those people it is supposed to serve and be accountable to.
Fortunately, one thing this deceptive report could not falsify or manipulate is the cost of this passenger-less white elephant of a station. It states that the costs of construction up until 31 March 2023 were a staggering £39,352,408 and then warns starkly that:-
“there remain substantial costs associated with this scheme that are yet to be spent which KCC will need to fund (unless further external funding sources are secured). Future direct KCC spend includes further archaeological evaluation work required by planning, junction retention costs, CCTV costs, Land Compensation Act costs, and other costs associated with additional signage and improvements to the car park. The forecast also includes additional costs being charged by Network Rail”
Bearing in mind that the cost of this unwanted and unused station has, between 2015 and 31 March 2023, risen from an estimated £11milion to almost £40 million – an increase of £29 million or 264% - it would be no exaggeration to say that the remaining “substantial costs associated with this scheme” will almost certainly push the final bill well past the £50million mark.
Coincidentally, this is just about the amount of money KCC intends to cut from the services which it provides to Kent’s most vulnerable people such as the elderly, the disabled and their carers, refugees fleeing from persecution and closing the household recycling centres.
Yet brain bypassed politicians such as Thanet Council’s Labour Leader “Raging” Rick Everitt continue, despite overwhelming evidence that Parkway is one of the costliest infrastructure failures in Kent since Julius Caeser invasion, persist in deceitfully and dishonestly claiming that the station will “ provide new opportunities for residents who do not currently have easy access to them …..and that it “will make Thanet a more attractive location for business, opening the way for new jobs and further investment”.
Everyone knows that Everitt’s words are total gobshite. The only Parkway winners are the greedy property developers building expensive houses on prime agricultural land near to the station, and those rich enough to live in them and afford to pay the extortionate ticket prices to use the station.
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