Thanet Parkway Station, which opens later this month, is an expensive symbol of the reckless stupidity of Thanet and Kent County Council's politicians both Labour and Tory. Originally said to cost £11 million the final bill is likely to be around the £40 million mark.
Thanet is already served by seven railway stations, so why do we need an eighth? In fact most users of Parkway will have to drive past some of these stations to get there. Where’s the sense in that?
I’ve always argued that if TDC and Kent County Council want to encourage people to use trains rather than cars, then the answer would be to improve facilities at Minster, Ramsgate, Dumpton Gap, Broadstairs, Margate, Westgate and Birchington stations. A much cheaper and more effective solution than Parkway.
In an area with high levels of airborne pollution and regular road congestion, Parkway will generate even more car use and increased levels of pollution which will damage the health of local people.
And even before it opens, Parkway has become a catalyst for large scale house building on nearby agricultural land. The concreting over of this land will destroy large areas of important wildlife habit, place additional stress on already underfunded and badly stretched public services and utilities such as water, and will undermine our growing need for greater food self-sufficiency.
We can also be certain that Parkway’s housebuilding spin off will be of the expensive executive type and will have a zero impact upon tackling Thanet’s desperate need for more affordable, high standard, social rented housing.
The cost of an annual season ticket from Parkway to London St Pancras is being advertised on South Eastern Trains website at £6,540. Throw in a London Travelcard to get to your place of work if you are commuting from Thanet and it’s an eyewatering £7,380!
Make no mistake Thanet Parkway is a gateway to transport apartheid. Only well-heeled car users are able to afford to use it and take advantage of the benefits and opportunities it is supposed to offer to the people of Thanet. So much for the deceitful Tory bollox about Parkway station helping to level up Thanet.
Parkway station is, in my opinion, an expensive waste of public money. It causes huge damage to Thanet’s environment through pollution, increased road congestion, the loss of agricultural land to housing and the destruction of large areas of wildlife habitat.
Economically, Parkway favours the well-off. It does little or nothing to help those in Thanet struggling hard to get by. It is also unlikely to attract new investment into Thanet as many of Parkway’s users are likely to be employees of London based organisations whose suppliers are London based and whose investments are also London focused. So it’s very unlikely that Parkway will have an any meaningful economic trickle-down effect on Thanet’s local economy.
Last but not least, is the question of passenger safety at Parkway. It will be an unstaffed station which is very likely to put passengers, especially women and people with disabilities at risk, and which without staff could also become a focus of crime.
Ironically, this unstaffed and unsafe station will be opening at time when the train operating companies are closing the remaining 1,007 ticket offices across the rail network and making tens of thousands of station support staff redundant. A move which RMT boss Mick Lynch rightly said “has got nothing to do with modernisation and is a thinly veiled plan to gut our railways of station staff” in order to reduce costs and maximise profits for the train operating companies greedy shareholders.
As a socialist and environmentalist, I have always believed that public transport should be owned by the state, funded by the taxpayer, and offer affordable subsidised fares to rail users.
That way the huge environmental and economic benefits offered by rail services could be available to everyone, not the just the well-off. I also believe that existing stations and disused trackways should always be put to use and upgraded before open spaces are covered in concrete at the expense of nature.
Public transport is a public service which should be publicly owned for the public good, not treated as cash cow by the greedy shareholders of the rail operating companies.