The work is seen as vital recognition of the 21-year international link for the Kent station and was welcomed by chairman of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership Christian Brodie, who said: “The importance of the new signalling system to the future of Ashford and connectivity of Kent to mainland Europe, was very quickly recognised by ourselves and our partner, the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership.”
Mr Brodie said £9.8 million for the project came from the Local Growth Fund and would ensure Kent retained its two international stations on the UK’s only high-speed rail line.
Network Rail’s senior commercial scheme sponsor Mark Ellerby said: “The work will future-proof the town’s station and preserve its status as part of Europe’s high speed network.” He said the link to Europe had boosted Ashford and Network Rail was delighted to be working with Eurostar and local authorities to maintain it.
The first of Eurostar’s new e320 trains will call at the station in April, en route to Brussels and Paris.
Leader of Ashford Borough Council Cllr Gerry Clarkson said: “It is great to see another of Ashford’s Big 8 projects progressing well, ensuring that Ashford stays the UK’s International Town.”
He apologised to the passengers and townspeople for disruption over the next few weeks, but said it would be worth it to continue to have direct access to Europe from Ashford.