Many people will have read with interest the recent report which showed that the high-speed rail service, which over the past ten years has been so vital for Ashford’s progress, adds about £73 million to the wider Kent economy. This comes particularly from an increase in tourism, with nearly a third of visitors influenced by the existence of a high-speed rail service.
It is useful to look the other way, as it were, and assess the value of the services that flow through Kent to the Tunnel and into France. These are now so important that they have a measurable impact on national statistics, let alone those for Kent.
Total trade through the Tunnel adds up to £91 billion, which is a quarter of all our trade with other EU countries. Clearly making sure that this trade can continue to flow freely is one of the key areas of negotiation in the Brexit talks, which will be continuing throughout the coming months.
The Tunnel is particularly important for transporting high value products, as many of them will be time sensitive in their delivery schedule. The top three products sent through the Tunnel are postal and courier freight, computers and electronics, and transport equipment.
As well as the freight there are also more than ten million Eurostar passengers and 2.6 million cars and coaches which go under the sea every year. Ashford’s share in all of this is relatively small, but it plays an important part in spreading the footprint for the services.
I remember from way back when the services first started in the 1990s there were sceptics who predicted the imminent closure of Ashford’s international services. So it is good that they have been proved wrong, and we continue to benefit not just from fast links to London but to the continent as well.