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Organisers have gone to great lengths (as have the platforms) in advance of The Open golf

Network Rail extends platforms and builds new footbridge in anticipation of golf visitors

Improvements to Sandwich railway station by Network Rail have been welcomed as a sign of confidence in the town’s future, as preparations get underway for The 149th Open, which will be played at Royal St George’s from 11-18 July 2021.

The improvements were designed to increase platform capacity, reduce disruption to local roads and residents, and enhance the experience for passengers and spectators. Now the hope is that the championship will (Covid-permitting) be open to spectators so the new works can be fully utilised and appreciated. It could be several years, perhaps another decade, before Royal St George’s features again.

The works included:

  • Extending platforms so the station can accommodate 12-carriage trains while 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 says: “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 15th 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 18 occasions.

Mike Hill OBE, cabinet member for Community and Regulatory Services at Kent County Council, says: “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), says: “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.”

A mock-up of how the 6th green will look at The Open … with fans present

Cllr Paul Graeme, the Right Worshipful Mayor of Sandwich, says: “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 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, says: “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.”

Kevin Warn, area manager for the Ramsgate area, Southeastern, says: “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.“

Note: The 149th Open will be played at Royal St George’s in Sandwich from 11-18 July 2021.  The R&A has 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.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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