KCC business survey results presentation, by Andrew Osborne

Published: 2 April, 2024 | Tags:

Andrew Osborne, of Ashford Borough Council
Andrew Osborne (video still)

Andrew Osborne is Head of Economic Development at Ashford Borough Council.

He presents here the results of the business survey which was carried out between October 2023 and January 2024.

This was the second presentation of the Petition Anniversay Webinar that took place on 20th March 2024. The webinar began with the petition analysis by BBET.

The survey was commissioned by Kent County Council in partnership with Ashford Borough Council, Dartford Borough Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Kent. These results were first presented by Andrew’s KCC colleague Mark Welch at the Joint Transport Board on 5th March 2024.

KCC did not approach businesses randomly but advertised the survey and waited for businesses to come to them, so those that responded are necessarily interested parties. KCC are aware that they didn’t reach everyone, but the respondents were very passionate. Rail is important to them, and therefore tthey provide a strong message.

“It’s a subject that comes uo at every meeting I go to. I think I say this every time I speak.”

Andrew Osborne

Business survey results summary

528 individual businesses responded, representing some 30,000 employees in Kent and the wider area. Of those:

  • 99% wanted a return of international services in Kent;
  • 94% said interaction with Europe was quite important to them;
  • 63% businesses plan to expand in a way that will make travel to Europe necessary;
  • 89% said that the lack of the service is impacting negatively on their business and custom;
  • 83% said they knew other businesses who are impacted;
  • 58% use London St Pancras to reach Europe but this is having “adverse impacts” compared with leaving from Kent;
  • Many worry about the service returning at all.

What are the “negative impacts” on businesses of having to travel via London St Pancras?

  • It takes much longer;
  • It costs more;
  • Day trips to the European capitals are now impossible, necessitating overnight stays that are even more costy in time and money;
  • They are having to diversify where they do their international business;
  • They now make fewer international trips overall than they used to.

“This gives a good picture of the impact of the lack of service in the economy of Kent and the wider area, and puts weight behind the business case for a return of the trains.”

Andrew Osborne

A return of international train services

If and when services eventually return to Ashford and/or Ebbsfleet stations, there would need to be a minimum level of service in order to be meaningful to businesses.

They are anxious to ensure:

  • that the stations and infrastructure remain as good as they were;
  • that the frequency and timings of trains make them useful to businesses;
  • that day trips to Paris and Brussels can happen again.

Further analysis of the data will be presented to the Government, Eurostar and future operators in May They intend to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first passenger service through the tunnel, a landmark event which they intend to mark with “a lot of noise”.

KCC are looking for “business champions” who can give them good quotes to pass to the Press, and who can get involved in activities of the campaign to build evidence case. Also supporting the BBET petition.