In the midst of some less cheerful activity it was a real pleasure to be able to attend two events in one day which showcased some good things that are happening in Ashford.
The first was the celebration to mark the 10th anniversary of the Hitachi Rail Repair Depot in Ashford, which turned into a wider discussion of the effect of high speed rail. Of all the conferences I have ever attended, this was the most positive, as the arrival of HS1 has clearly been a great help for Ashford, Kent, Hitachi, and the rail industry more widely.
For Ashford in particular it has been the basis for our ability to attract business and jobs to the town. This is important in itself, but even more useful has been the ability, for the thousands of people who commute every day, to have a more reliable service. Even Passenger Focus, the body responsible for channelling the many complaints of rail travellers, showed the conference that satisfaction levels for HS1 were much higher than for most other services.
The second cheerful event was a visit to Premier Coatings, a firm in Smarden which has received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, given to them by the Duke of Kent last week.
Premier have been in Smarden since 1982, and basically provide very strong sealing material for oil and water pipelines, the parts of jetties that sit in the sea, the bottoms of reservoirs, and any other structure that needs to know it won’t leak or rust for several decades.
Much of their current work is done in the Middle East, and it is particularly encouraging to see a local business based in a rural area taking on the world and winning. They richly deserve their award.