Improvements to Sandwich railway station by Network Rail have been welcomed, as preparations get under way for The 149th Open, which will be played at Royal St George’s from 11-18 July.
The improvements were designed to increase platform capacity, reduce disruption to local roads and residents, and enhance the experience for passengers and spectators. The works included:
- Extending platforms so that the station can accommodate 12-carriage trains whilst ensuring that longer trains using platform 1 do not overhang the level crossing on Dover Road and New Street
- A new footbridge linking the extended platform 1 with a new pedestrian route to the Royal St George’s Golf Club for spectators. The footbridge will only be used during The Open
- A new additional entrance on platform 1 to assist with passenger movement and to ease congestion to and from the station.
Paul Harwood, Network Rail Southern region’s director of investment said: “The work we’ve undertaken at Sandwich station is a real bonus for regular passengers as well as for spectators to The Open and the town too. The footbridge will be opened for The Open, but the platform extensions can start providing benefits to customers straight away.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming more passengers back to our railway in the coming months and it’s great to have got this job done ready for them.”
Sandwich has hosted The Open on more occasions than any other English venue and 2021 will be the fifteenth time the Championship has been played at Royal St George’s since 1894. Including the neighbouring Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports, Kent has played host to The Open on eighteen occasions.
Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “The Open is the biggest sporting event hosted in Kent and provides a major boost to the local economy. Kent County Council has led the development of the project to upgrade Sandwich Station in partnership with Network Rail, Southeastern, East Kent District Councils and The R&A who stage the Championship itself. We’re hopeful that The 149th Open in July will be the perfect opportunity to showcase all that we have to offer in Kent.”
Cllr Nigel Collor, lead Cabinet Member for The Open at Dover District Council (DDC), said: “Working with The R&A, KCC, and the other local authorities in East Kent we were determined to improve public transport and sustainability for The 149th Open. Improving the station was one of the key learnings from 2011 when The Open was last held at Royal St George’s.
“Sandwich now has a railway station fit for the future, able to serve both the local community and act as the gateway to some of the finest links golf courses in the world.”
Cllr Paul Graeme, The Right Worshipful Mayor of Sandwich, said: “We’re delighted to see the improvements to Sandwich station completed. Extending the platforms means that Sandwich can now accommodate 12-carriage high-speed trains without over-hanging the level crossing on Dover Road.
“The Town of Sandwich is looking forward to giving a warm welcome to the golfers and spectators at The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.”
Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said, “We are pleased that the station improvements and new pedestrian route have been completed ahead of The Open in July. They will enhance the experience for those fans travelling by rail to and from Sandwich and minimise disruption to local residents.”
Aaron Willcox, Southeastern Area Manager for Sandwich station, said: “We are very pleased with the improvements at the station. It’s looks great and the longer platforms will provide more space and make it easier for our passengers to social distance. The platforms at Sandwich are relatively narrow and can be very busy with pupils from nearby secondary schools when they finish for the day. Using the extra space along Platform 1 in particular will allow schoolchildren and other passengers to spread out and reduce crowding.
“Using the platform extensions outside of the week of The Open will also reduce the length of time the level crossing is closed, minimising disruption to local traffic. In the pre-COVID timetable, up to 10 trains a day would overhang the level crossing, keeping traffic waiting until they had left the station. “
The 149th Open will be played at Royal St George’s in Sandwich from 11-18 July 2021. The R&A have been working closely with the government, medical advisers, and partner agencies as part of a rigorous scenario-planning exercise for staging The Open this year. The R&A continue to plan for a full-scale Championship but also have robust plans in place for a reduced capacity or behind closed doors model.