Weds 15th Nov 2023
The Kent and East Sussex Railway (KESR) has attracted tourists and steam rail enthusiasts to Tenterden sine it opened as a heritage railway in 1974. This followed a period from 1961 where the line, established as the first ‘light railway’ in 1900, stopped operating.
With 25 full-time-equivalent employees and about 600 volunteers, KESR is a significant draw to Tenterden town, with about 90K visitors pre-covid contributing about £6m to the local economy. The visitors are mainly drawn from Kent and south-east London, despite the only viable means of getting to the stations being by road. The railway also welcomes visitors from cruise ships docked at Dover, offering a taste of rural Kent with its many charms.
Covid had a significant impact on the railway, with visitor numbers dropping significantly. Whilst they are recovering, they have yet to reach pre-covid levels, with about 70K expected this year.
Recently an application to extend the line to Robertsbridge, where it would link up with the national rail network, was approved following a public consultation. David expects this to provide a significant boost when it opens in 2-3 years time, as those with no access to cars (as many in London don’t) will be able to change at Robertsbridge to access the KESR trains.
Exciting times await for this valued local attraction.