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East Kent Coast Liberal Democrats

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Threat to Maidstone’s High Speed Services continues

May 15, 2018 9:39 PM
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

The future of Maidstone's high speed rail link remains in doubt after train company bosses again refused to guarantee Javelinservices.

At Monday's Rail Summit meeting at County Hall, David Statham, managing director of train operator Southeastern, would not give an assurance that peak time high speed services from Maidstone West to London St Pancras will be maintained. Mr Statham was responding to a question from Rob Bird, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at KCC, and councillor for Maidstone Central.

Rob Bird said many Maidstone commuters were forced to travel to stations at Ebbsfleet, Strood, Paddock Wood and Staplehurst for their daily commute to London because of poor rail services from central Maidstone.

Rob BirdHe questioned why there appeared to be no commitment to maintain the high speed service from Maidstone to St Pancras. He made it clear that nobody in Maidstone and none of the many new residents moving to the town from central London are interested in the alternative service to Abbey Wood, which Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, appears to be advocating.

In response, Mr Statham stated there were other demands for Southeastern's limited number of high speed trains, suggesting the units could be deployed on other routes.

He also said Southeastern is keen to develop a link with the new Crossrail service at Abbey Wood.

Rob Bird said: "This was a very disappointing response. "Maidstone is the County Town of Kent, yet there can't be any similar sized towns 30 miles, or less than 30 miles, from the centre of London with such a lousy rail service.

"Let us hope the other two companies bidding for the franchise - Abelio and Stagecoach - properly understand that high speed services are vital to the residents of Maidstone and future growth of the town's businesses.

"We will keep up the pressure on the rail operators, the Department for Transport and our MPs to keep Maidstone on the high speed rail map."

Residents and commuters may sign the Liberal Democrat petition against cuts to Kent's Rail services by clicking here.

In response to Rob Bird's earlier question, Phil Hutchinson the head of strategic planning at Govia Thameslink had confirmed they were doing everything possible to bring the Thameslink service to Maidstone East in December 2019.

1. The Secretary of State for Transport is expected to announce the winner of the new franchise for South East train services in November, 2018. The three rail companies bidding for the franchise are Abelio, Govia and Stagecoach.
2. To watch the webcast of the Rail Summit and see the presentations click here.