The proposed light railway can be operationally profitable but the costs associated with set-up involve mainline changes and limited roadwork - thus expensive (although this might be reduced by some integration with the East Kent Resignalling Scheme)
The project would be the first example of sharing light rail with main line services on the same tracks, albeit for about one mile. Because of this it would deliver benefits that would allow a number of deliverables for various parties: -
The Office of Rail Regulation - a pilot project that would enable a baseline specification for this type of light rail service which may enable future light rail services to be locally managed at lower costs whilst being integrated within the public transport network.
Department for Transport – a potential reduction in subsidies for short urban and rural light rail services, perhaps outside of the existing franchise model. It will test the various aspects required of a light rail delivery properly described in the press release of September 2011
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – a demonstrable solution that can be used to promote UK manufacturing and project management within export markets. Of particular benefit would be the position of Folkestone being within one hour of central London using HS1 high speed services with a seamless transition to a light rail local area service that does not require the expensive overhead power collection systems found in continental Europe.
Network Rail – an option of reducing track bed costs whilst introducing modest track access charges or maintaining the current branch railway for Shepway District Council with further track access charges from the operating company.
Kent County Council – can low cost test the market for local Cross-Channel services for which the present approach is to use new rolling stock for regular local services via the Channel Tunnel. Such a service could deliver a permanent solution for the ambition by utilising existing HS1 services with an attractive transfer to and from the harbour. Concentrating foot passenger traffic via Folkestone could allow P&O, the last operator offering such services, to terminate such services together with the bus transfers from and to Dover Priory station.
Shepway District Council - would benefit by being able to take ownership of the Harbour Railway lease thus continuing to protect the historic railway as part of local heritage and thus tourism with benefits for the local business community. It would benefit the Local Development Framework by provision of long term parking that would be lost from the seafront area and protect access to the Outer Pier as part of its current policy of retaining facilities for future opportunities for accepting various forms of passenger shipping for which a link with national rail services could be easily established.
Folkestone Town Council - would gain by reconnecting the East Cliff and Dover Road areas to main line rail services via the proposed park and ride station.
The Folkestone Harbour Company - would gain by increasing property values within the development area by being able to offer fast connections to London from any part of the development in less than 75 minutes. The proposed Whitehill - Bordon eco-town development estimates that the provision of light rail services to 4,000 additional dwellings with (at the time of calculation) an average value of £200,000 would increase property values by between 15% and 25% (average 20%) raising total values by £160m. Capital funding is also an issue for that scheme but KPMG report that the rail franchise process can form one source and Network Rail might include the scheme within its Control Period 6 (2019 – 2024). Given recognition of the various benefits outlined above can be applied to an already an operational railway that can, with set-up investment from the various parties, deliver not only a beneficial public transport solution for Folkestone but would allow the listed, presently unassessed, wider national benefits to be gained.
The Creative Foundation – would gain by gaining connections with main line rail services to a light rail station approximately 2 minutes walk from The Creative Quarter in Tontine Street.