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Ashford's heart Facing the issues

The arrival of the CTRL in Ashford is long awaited. It is seen as a means of re-establishing the town as Kent's main business centre, rivalling the county town of Maidstone.

'Ashford has heard a lot of broken promises over the years,' explains RLE community liaison officer Lisa Doughty. 'Now it is happening the majority are pleased. But we are not going to build this contract without some disruption so we must, where at all possible, reduce and minimise it.'

Doughty insists that the best way to deal with complaints is to confront them and solve them. Sending engineers out to meet the public and explain what they are doing, when it will happen and why it is the best way.

'Complaints from locals are certainly going down,' she insists. 'We have a 24 hour helpline and people are very pleased with the service. But you have to go out and actually show your face.'

Local school children are key targets and are benefiting from the construction through a specially set up education centre at the Ashford site office. So far, 38 schools are involved in regular site visits - three per week. The visits teach children about the work, its environmental impact and the dangers of construction sites.

The safety awareness campaign does not stop at the CTRL site boundary as other CTRL related work is also under way in Ashford. This includes substantial alterations to existing local railway lines, a new sidings yard and electrification work.

A special campaign is about to be launched in association with the British Transport Police to make children aware of the dangers of railway lines.

Fronted by TV comic duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, the campaign highlights the dangers of playing near electrified lines. It hopes to reduce the unacceptably high numbers of children killed on railway land each year.

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