Rail Minister officially opens Thanet Parkway railway station (and it now has toilets…)

Huw Merriman at Thanet Parkway

Rail Minister Huw Merriman formally opened Thanet Parkway station on Friday (September 8), Kent’s first new railway station in eight years and Thanet’s first in almost 100 years.

The minister attended the celebratory opening event alongside invited guests and senior representatives from Network Rail, Southeastern, Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

There was music from Thanet Big Sing Community Choir and food supplied by Chapel House Estate from Minster.

The winners of an art competition that was held at Minster CofE Primary and Chilton Primary were also unveiled with each of the six winning pupils receiving a family High Speed travel pass from Southeastern.

The minister unveiled a commemorative plaque to officially mark the opening and he enjoyed a station tour.

Guests also took a short trip to Margate on Trainbow, the first of the Class 395 Javelin fleet that has had a major interior refresh, as part of a £27m upgrade programme.

There is currently a discount ticket offer running at https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/travel-information/more-travel-help/thanet-parkway-station

Thanet Parkway price tag

Thanet Parkway Station opened to passengers on July 31, some 13 years after the scheme was first proposed and at a cost that has quadrupled from an estimated £11m in 2015 to some £44m.

The total price tag may even exceed £44m as further funding has been needed to complete level crossing and signalling work. The project work was impacted by rising inflation.

A further spend of £48.6k is being made for a Thanet Parkway cost review and report commissioned by Kent County Council and being carried out by West Midlands based Sable Leigh Consultancy. That report is due to be completed by next February.

County Councillor Karen Constantine says she has also had confirmation that £30,000 will be spent installing 38 speed bumps across Parkway car park to stop nuisance drivers.

The cost

Get Building Fund  £12,874,000

Local Growth Fund  £14,000,000

Kent County Council   £11,585,319

Thanet council  £2,000,000

New Stations Fund £3,400,000

Total £43,859,319 (excluding additional level crossing costs and the cost review report)

What’s at the station?

Thanet Parkway has two 250 metre platforms that can accommodate 12-car trains, and will offer services to St Pancras International via Ashford International in 70 minutes and mainline connections to London terminals and across Kent and the Medway towns.

There are lifts and stairs to access the platforms, ticket vending machines, waiting shelters, acoustic barriers, parking for 293 vehicles, bus stops, pick-up and drop-off zones, electric charging points, hearing loops, cycle storage, CCTV, seating, landscaping works and passenger help points to provide remote assistance for those who need it.

The station includes step-free lift access to platforms; assisted Boarding Points on both platforms and now has public toilets in the car park – initially the station only had staff toilets.

There is also tactile paving, CCTV and a defibrillator.

Parking includes 16 spaces for Blue Badge holders  and a number of charging points for electric vehicles.

Pick up and drop off zones have also been set out, along with a station bus stop which will be served by an electric minibus shuttle to Discovery Park.

The station is accessed from the A299 Hengist Way with a new pedestrian and cycleway to and from Clive Road in Cliffsend village.

Opposition and problems

Credit stefancosten.co.uk

The project has faced opposition from numerous district and county councillors who say the isle already has seven stations and does not need another, unstaffed one.

There have been  questions over passenger safety at an unstaffed station and the danger of more building on agricultural land due to the expectation of the station creating demand for new homes.

In response to concerns Southeastern pledged to staff the station for around six weeks  on weekdays between 8am and 4pm and says it has “committed to keeping staffing of the station under review.” This will now to be permanent, says Steve White, Southeastern’s Managing Director. Each service also has onboard crew.

Last month security at the station had to be stepped up and police response teams pledged to focus attention at Thanet Parkway after issues with antisocial driving around the car park.

Complaints about nuisance driving at the site prompted stepped up Kent County Council security staff and Southeastern Railway Enforcement Officers undertaking regular patrols at the station.

County Councillor Karen Constantine says she still believes the station is a ‘white elephant.’

She said: “It was no surprise to learn that Parkway only has 300 users per day. I have long maintained this station is quite simply in the wrong location and that Thanet didn’t need yet another station. We did need, and we still need, improvements to the journey time between Thanet and London. It’s irksome that the journey time from Ramsgate station is now even longer.

“It’s interesting that KCC has now said it would think differently about this decision. All I can say is Labour at KCC certainly asked for a reconsideration.

“Many the residents remain unhappy with the noise from announcements and the cutting through that is predictably taking place. I fear once car parking charges are instated this will become worse.

“To add insult to injury KCC has very recently confirmed to me that they are paying a further £30,000 for the installation of 38 speed bumps across Parkway car park to stop nuisance drivers. Ironic considering I am repeatedly told there is no cash for road safety measures in Ramsgate – despite accidents and near misses.

“KCC has demonstrated a stunning lack of common sense when it comes to spending tax payer money. Thanet, and Ramsgate, desperately need regeneration, a white elephant railway station will not achieve that in the here in now. The potential beneficiaries will be the construction companies – at some point in the future.”

What was said at the opening event:

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “The opening of Thanet Parkway is the latest example of the Government’s commitment to making rail journeys across the UK more accessible and I’m delighted to see this impressive new station already making a difference in the community.

“It will provide a boost to the local economy by better connecting people to employment, education and business opportunities while allowing thousands of people to benefit from new high-speed services into London as well as leisure and tourism attractions across Kent.”

David Davidson, Network Rail’s Kent route director, added: “As part of this project we upgraded several level crossings to allow trains to run faster, which created space in the timetable for a new stop at Thanet Parkway without increasing journey times for passengers.”

Huw Merriman (left) David Davidson (NR) and Steve White (SE)

Steve White, Southeastern’s Managing Director, said passenger numbers have been building since the station opened at the end of July and he expected to hit the 10,000th customer mark shortly. Reportedly around 300 passengers a day use Thanet Parkway compared to just under 3,000 at Ramsgate station.

He added: “We’ll have staff at the station everyday between 8am and 4pm and crew on board every service, to assist customers.”

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said: “A few years ago the last piece of the funding jigsaw, some £17m, was still to be found else the Parkway project would fail. It was only after my Prime Minister’s Question in July 2020 that the required shortfall was agreed by the Department for Transport.

“We still wait a judicial decision on re-opening Manston airport, which will be the centrepiece for the renaissance of East Kent. We have a great quality, new station to accommodate whatever the future holds for Manston.”

Thanet council leader  Rick Everitt added: “Thanet welcomes the very substantial investment that Parkway has received from the government and Kent County Council, and treats it as a vote of confidence in its future, which we believe is a bright one. From the district council’s perspective, we will do everything we can to get as much value out of the new station as we can.”

The Isle of Thanet News columnist Christine Tongue attended the official opening:

Christine Tongue

Thanet Parkway is the first train station to be built in Thanet in nearly 100 years— but without a ticket office or, initially, staff or a toilet!

Thanet Parkway station, near Cliffsend,  has been running for two months but officially opened on Friday.

They’ve now backtracked on all its initial shortcomings — but in a way few passengers are likely to be happy with.

They’ve put toilets in the station car park —  but they’re locked after 4pm (and they don’t have any signs on them).

New loos

Instead of a ticket office, there are brand new state of the art ticket machines. And there will be a member of staff on hand to advise people needing help.

The official opening was celebrated with a grand party, including a huge marquee groaning with refreshments, a local choir singing jolly songs,  paintings from local school children and the political elite of Kent turning up to unveil a plaque.

Transport minister Huw Merriman was there and was introduced by MP Craig Mackinlay.  Mackinlay said they’d joined parliament at the same time but Merriman had climbed ministerial ladders that had eluded him. We all laughed.

Merriman attempted to defend the station’s accessibility for disabled people – although he vehemently turned down the chance to try it out for himself in a borrowed wheelchair. He also pointed to the use of braille at various places in the station to help passengers with sight problems — but didn’t explain how they’d find these places unless they had somebody with them.

Generally Merriman and other local politicians justified the building of the station on the basis of the economic benefits it would bring East Kent.

But the biggest question about the station  remains: is it really money well spent? Especially at a time when the train companies are planning to close ticket offices and shed staff wholesale in attempts to save money.

The station cost about £44 million to build, was erected on good farm land amid much local protest and very few people are using it — 300 a day, compared to 3000 in Ramsgate Station, just down the line.

Shelter – Christine was unable to access this

The politicians say this will all change as more houses are built around the station. They aren’t answering the much more controversial question of how many more new houses will have to built on how much green space before Thanet Parkway is justified.

Thanet Parkway Station opening – quadrupled cost and the anticipated ‘boost’ to housing development

47 Comments

  1. A bus stop that no scheduled routes going anywhere due to Tory bus cuts. The lunatics truly have taken over the asylum!

    • Well Ms Pink (AKA Peter Checksfield) I don’t know what the profit margin is on just 300 passengers a day, but my guess is it won’t repay the cost of construction until…never!

  2. Wonderful to see Thanet getting moving & no excuses for these languishing lead swingers not to be working 12 hour days in London at top dollar, while also avoiding the loony leftie ULEZ scam, with a quick walk from the station. It will also make Manston bigger than Sandwich Discovery Park.

  3. 54 million pound white elephant, that the local majority didn’t appear to want, it seems slightly surprising in these straightened times that TDC managed to find 2
    £2 million to throw in the pot. When you think how much money TDC have poured down the drain, millions for illegally banning animal exports, millions in pay offs to executives through incompetence, millions in legal fees. If things had been done competently our our council tax bills would be greatly reduced.

  4. As I always say to my good friends at DAFT it is great to see the costs of these things spiraling to ensure that hard working British Builders are paid properly & essential that there is always an expensive cost report on the taxpayer dime to see whether it was too expensive. Not expensive enough in my book!

    Take it out of those feckless skivers dole money, my good friend Lee has shown they can survive on 30 pence per day & if they don’t like it then they can you know what back to who knows where.

  5. I think I need a defibrillator for the cost of this fiasco.
    Seriously,apart from ironic ‘Tory Boy’and the true believer ‘the Pink Checksfield ‘would anyone really suggest that this project was value for money?
    It will be kept alive in a similar way to the Turner Contemporary by means of a drip feed of public money.Of course if KCC go the way of Birmingham and that’s a distinct possibility,then what will happen.
    This is not a transport project it is a political statement.
    Most of the 1951 Festival of Britain was torn down and in the 21st century,the Labour schools building program were smashed up and shut down by Tory boy’s friends therefore the same could happen here as an example of Tory profligacy and stupidity.

    • If you hate railway stations so much, I suggest you move to Lyminge or Lydd or Leysdown or anywhere else in Kent where there are NO railways anymore. Thanet is very lucky to have 8 stations in such a relatively small area.

  6. So, according to the quotes, Labour politicians both love it and loathe it ?

    If they can’t even get their act together and agree on something locally then why on earth should anyone vote for them nationally ?

  7. Well at least now the station finally has public toilets and station staff 8 till 4 every day!
    Just need more trains to stop there next !

  8. One pound notes have not been crisp for decades.Far from hating railway stations I am an enthusiastic supporter of public transport.I merely suggest that £44m could have been spent more wisely.thus is called the opportunity cost.
    Ramsgate has a station which is purposeful and beautiful.Thanet Parkway is expensive,car reliant,ugly, and pointless.
    The pink Checksfield often misses the point and barracks from the back because he knows he is fighting a lost cause.
    I don’t care who forms the next government,but what I do know is this one is like a Norwegian blue,it’s dead,gone to meet its maker.and only responds when someone pulls its strings.The blind Thanetian and PC better accept that no matter how hard they howl,almost every else knows the jigs up for Rishi.Before long he will be able to spend more time with his money in California.

  9. Paul link, Karen Constantine and myself both boycotted the jolly boys outing to margate(cliffs end village in fact) at least 5 county councillors and about 6 thanet district councillors plus some county council officers away from their offices enjoying a FREEBIE. Also just a reminder OFFICIAL Labour Party policy has been opposed to thanet parkway at cliffs end, I should know as i have been Labour spokesperson on transport for the last 6 years.

    • No-one at TDC gives a monkey’s about the Thanet villages. If you did, you’d fight harder to ensure that the residents of Cliffsend, Monkton, Acol and Sarre have access to a shop without having to jump in a car or (if they’re lucky) jump on a bus. Still, you have your art galleries and over-priced eateries in Margate, so what do you care?

    • I don’t get it Barry. Official Labour policy is to oppose the station yet we have the Labour TDC Leader Rick Everitt gushing all over it ?

      Surely you can see the electorate are a little confused about this contradiction of opinion locally ? As I said earlier on, how on earth do you expect people to trust you with a national vote when you can’t even agree on something so basic locally ?

      • It must be even more confusing for the voters in Cliffsend. I look forward to clarification of Labour’s position from Barry/Paul/Karen.

  10. Isn’t the leader of TDC Rick Everitt a labour councillor? What is he doing supporting the station and the huge drain on funds that TDC cannot afford in the short term, oh wait a sec, he lives 10 minutes away by foot. It’s odd they can find the dosh when it benefits themselves, yet the streets are filthy with few cleaners available, cars and vans parked on the pavements, yellow lines, street corners and zebra crossings zig zag lines with no parking enforcement officers about, toilets are closed through lack of maintenance, similarly with public seafront shelters, all in Margate. No money for what the residents and tourists find essential, but money for a station in the middle of nowhere ! Who are these fools running the establishment and Councils? Yes, we know!

      • They are M.M. Rees! I have been trying to stop fly tipping of litter bags on the corner of Boundary Road, and Chatham place, Ramsgate for yonks! This morning there were 2 TDC White litter bags there, and 2 settee’s Fly Tipped! The roads in and around urban Ramsgate are full of filth and squalor, and don’t get ma started on the potholes, and broken pavements! Try using a mobility scooter at least along Margate Road from the viaduct, to Pysons Road, it would make a good SAS obstacle course! The money spent on this eyesore at Manston should have been used on re-surfacing Thanet Roads!

        • Perhaps they could save money by closing Dumpton station? In my albeit limited recent use of both stations, Dumpton is by far less used.

  11. Just shows the mentality of pro expansion of Thanet in totally in the wrong direction. All this spent yet hospital, schools, doctors, water supply,jobs and free flowing traffic all unable to cope with expansion.yet you guys think that a new train station is the way forward, Tory loving idiots with woke ideas and not a single brain cell between you.

  12. If you look back at Ebbsfleet when it opened in 2009 ( I think) everyone said the same. Look at it now a thriving station and area. The same will probably happen here
    This station was not built as a challenge or alternative to Ramsgate but for folk further afield like Westgate and Birchington where their route is north Kent the slow high-speed. A short drive and they are on the fastest route to London. There’s not enough parking in Thanet’s other stations. The jury still out. As for doom and gloom political input well it says more about them then the planners.

  13. I am interested in how the toilets were constructed so fast as a response to criticism on the opening of the station. Were they approved under the original planning application and not constructed at the stage of development. Have they been fast tracked through the planning process or is Network Rail submitting a retrospective planning application to retain them as built?

  14. Paul,they were originally built for staff use only and on july 31st tv crews were able to use them when they complained on the first day station actually opened.when i and others highlighted on tv that night there were no public toilets they have now allowed the public to use the staff toilets.I know it’s crazy given there are no platform staff but everything about this station defies logic

  15. The official labour policy was
    And is to oppose the building of the building of a station being built at cliffs end now known as thanet parkway. As it is Kent county council project that is why it is up to Kent county labour group to decide policy. Individuals in the Labour Party not being Labour county councillors can and do have opposite opinions and thats fine , i as the kent labour spokesperson on transport for the last 6 years speak for the Labour Party.

    • Yet (presumably) you support the building and continuous bottomless pit funding of Turner Contemporary? Yes, Thanet Parkway is overpriced, but now it’s there it is at least of use to quite a few people, and will be even more so as Thanet’s roads get busier.

  16. My personal view on the turner
    Is that thanet residents should be allowed free entance, people outside thanet should pay therefore lowering the cost of maintenance.i do not think labour locally has stated a position on it. Of course there are different opinions on who pays for art in general . Pleasure to answer your reasonable questions

  17. I have used this station once with my daughter and found it to be a scary experience. The acoustic barriers mean that you cannot see to the side of the station when on the platform and you are unable to see if anyone is hiding in the shelters along the platform. It is like standing in a steel tube! On our return we managed to gauge our seats on the train to arrive close to the exit staircase so had no need to walk along the platform. No view of the outside world from up there left us fearful for what might be waiting in the car park.

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