Canterbury City Council has held talks with rail bosses as it presses ahead with its controversial £9 million multi-storey car park next to the West station.
The authority has met representatives from train operator Southeastern and Network Rail to discuss how to meet the growing demand for passengers at the station, which serves London via the high-speed link.
The Conservative administration won permission for the car park from its planning committee earlier this year despite objections from clean air campaigners and opposition parties who fear it will worsen pollution by encouraging vehicles into the St Dunstan’s area.
But city council leader Simon Cook remains optimistic about the car park’s role in addressing Canterbury’s transport needs.
He said: “We are certain this is the start of some very interesting and exciting conversations about this massively important part of the city.
“Our plans for a multi-storey car park could be the key to unlock the potential of Canterbury West station.
“It opens up the opportunity for the station to be reconfigured in a way that provides more space for passengers, pedestrians, taxis and bikes. Buses already stop on the road outside the station.”
Last month, the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, a committee of experts advising central government, recommended better railway connections for the city and called for Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfleet which would connect the district’s high-speed trains to a much wider network.
Chief executive Colin Carmichael added: “High speed trains have already brought enormous benefits to the city and the wider district. We need to build on those benefits now to make the most of them for the future, otherwise we will be left kicking ourselves in 25 years’ time having left the way open for other towns in Kent to benefit.
“Canterbury West station will help us to do so and we’re pleased our talks were so positive.”
But critics of the car park scheme have raised questions about the need for a multi-storey car park in the first place.
Cllr Mike Dixey, leader of the Lib Dem group on Canterbury City Council, warned that there is no additional demand for car parking spaces at the station and forecast that it will lose money for a significant period of time.
He said: “When councils across the country are struggling to balance their budgets due to massive cuts in their grants from central government, it seems extraordinary that Canterbury City Council should be considering spending over £9 million on a car park which is not needed, and which will incur accumulated losses of £7.8 million within 15 years.”
The multi-storey will sit on the site of the existing city council ground level car park in Station Road West and will comprise 370 spaces over three levels.
Some preparatory work has taken place has already taken place ahead of construction. Objectors had threatened to launch a legal battle to prevent the work taking place.