Ashford Station Travel Plan

Context

Ashford International Station is located on the edge of Ashford town centre; about 600 metres walk from its south eastern corner, and a 5 minute walk from the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet.

As the junction of several railway lines, it offers a frequent service to London via Tonbridge or Maidstone to the North, Canterbury, Margate and Ramsgate to the East, Folkestone and Dover to the South and Hastings through to Brighton to the West. In addition, Eurostar provide international services between London, Paris and Brussels.

Access to the domestic and international services are separate, with the domestic station on the north side of the tracks and the international station concourse on the south side. The station has been designated as both a Transport Hub and International Gateway in the Southeast Regional Plan. It currently serves around 2.6 million passengers per annum, making it one of the busiest stations in the region.

Need for a Travel Plan

Ashford is undergoing an exciting transformation that aims to create a prosperous and exciting place to live, work and do business. With a programme of progressive change aimed at improving retail, commercial, educational, leisure and transport facilities, Ashford is enjoying a period of sustained growth and regeneration. The multi-million pound town centre redevelopment will create a place that offers a better quality of life, is safe, inviting and has improved access for all.

The introduction of Domestic Services on High Speed 1 (HS1) in December 2009 will reinforce the importance of Ashford station for domestic users, and it is expected that this will generate growth in all modes of transport to the station including rail-heading. The planned expansion of the town will increase the population from approximately 60,000 to 135,000 by 2029 and will also increase demand for services significantly. Southeastern have carried out forecast studies from now until 2014 and during this period there is a predicted increase of 46% in footfall at Ashford Station.

Ashford's aim is to deliver the best of everything in a balanced, sustainable way. By carefully developing its infrastructure and connections and by making Ashford an attractive place to live and to invest in, solid foundations for the future are being laid. A partnership between key stakeholders to address the sustainable connectivity of Ashford's key transport interchange is integral to this vision.

Description of the process

The Ashford Station Travel Plan project has brought together a wide range of organisations and companies responsible for transport and regeneration in Ashford. Led by Kent Highway Services (Kent County Council) the core Steering Group comprises:

  • Ashford's Future
  • Ashford Borough Council
  • Southeastern
  • Stagecoach
  • Network Rail
  • Sustrans

In addition to these primary stakeholders a wider reference group has been engaged including Passenger Focus, Ashford Town Centre Partnership, Eurostar, Spokes (local cyclist's organisation) and major town centre employers.

The role of the Travel Plan is to support the significant infrastructure investment in and around the station including; new cycle parking, improved local bus services and improved walking and cycling links through the targeted promotion of sustainable travel choices. The travel plan objectives and measures have been selected in response to stakeholder consultation and detailed travel surveys at the stations. These have highlighted those areas with the greatest potential for change including an increase in cycling, bus travel and carsharing.

Action Plan highlights

A wide range of initiatives and proposals have been put forward to support and help to meet the Travel Plan objectives. The following are the five key initiatives to look out for

Personalised Travel Planning — regular Ashford commuters will be contacted to find out what information they need to help make small changes to their travel choices to benefit their health, finances and make a contribution to improving the local environment.

Cycle parking — capacity at the station has been increased by over 150% with the installation of additional Sheffield style stands and a new secure swipe card entry compound for 70 cycles.

www.kentjourneyshare.com - is a new and improved web based service to support the Station Travel Plan. It enables customers to request maps and information, as well as personalised travel plans for their journey to and from the station.

Pedestrian and cycle access to the station will be significantly improved including: new signage to and from the town centre, transport links, retail outlet and car parks; the extension of the existing cycle path into the station forecourt and the installation of a signalised junction and toucan crossing on Beaver Road.

Local bus services - Stagecoach and KCC have been working in partnership to deliver enhanced frequencies and journey time reliability for local bus services as well as making routes and destinations simpler and more accessible for users through improved mapping, onsite timetable information and a significant branding and marketing exercise.

Key lessons learned

The Ashford Station Travel Plan pilot has been a great success and has been a timely intervention, supporting a major programme of infrastructure improvements. However, the cost and time resources involved in delivering a meaningful package of travel planning and promotional incentives cannot be underestimated and in this instance much of this burden has fallen to Kent County Council to take forward. The situation has been compounded by an economic downturn which has impacted on the marketing and promotions budgets of key private sector stakeholders.

It is recommended that for future schemes, the funding contributions and resource capacity of key partners is identified at a very early stage which will steer the development of objectives, measures and targets.

 

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