The minister attended the celebratory opening event alongside a number of invited guests and senior representatives from Network Rail, Southeastern, Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.
The event was a local affair with music from the @ Thanet Big Sing Community Choir, and food supplied by Chapel House Estate, a wedding and events venue located near Minster.
The winners were also unveiled on the day of an art competition that was held in two nearby schools, Minster CofE Primary and Chilton Primary, 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. He was shown a number of customer-focussed features including:
- Step-free lift access to platforms
- Assisted Boarding Points on both platforms – part of a new accessible travel pilot scheme for Southeastern
- Newly installed accessible toilet
- Tactile paving for wayfinding
- 11 Passenger Help Points with Hearing Loops for remote assistance
- Waiting shelters and seating
- CCTV for security
- Ticket vending machines
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.
The 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, said: “It was brilliant to welcome the Rail Minister to Thanet Parkway today to officially open what is Kent’s first new railway station in eight years.
“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.
“It’s really pleasing to see passenger numbers steadily increasing since the station opened. We are committed to encouraging as many people as possible to ditch the car and use the train as a greener form of travel and this new station will play a key part in attracting more people to use the railway.”
Steve White, Southeastern’s Managing Director, said: “Passenger numbers have been building since the station opened at the end of July and we are expecting our 10,000th customer any day now. I’m confident that this modern, fully accessible station will be a long term asset for the local community. It is served by Britain’s fastest domestic train offering the sustainable option to park and ride on our all-electric railway. We’ll have staff at the station everyday between 8am and 4pm and crew on board every service, to assist customers.”
Kent County Council Leader, Roger Gough, said: “It was a privilege to officially open Thanet Parkway today alongside the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman.
“Thanet Parkway is a symbol of the prosperity to come for east Kent, providing the area with faster links to the Capital and unlocking opportunity which will be realised in future years and decades.”
Sarah Dance, South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Chair, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this celebration today, this station marks a key milestone in the future economy for East Kent offering greater access to jobs, training, and widening the catchment for leisure purposes.
“SELEP is delighted to have been part of the partnership working to deliver for our local and regional economy and our communities.”
Councillor Rick Everitt, Leader of Thanet District Council, said: “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.”