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Angry MP Helen Grant warns of impact on Maidstone if rail services are cut

Thursday 15th February 2018

MP Helen Grant has angrily warned the secretary of state in charge of railways she is fears the county town will be “put to the back of queue” for services into London.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling met Maidstone and Weald member Mrs Grant earlier this month over fears high speed trains will be scrapped at Maidstone West to St Pancras.

The MP fears, as do campaigners, that the services will be downgraded in the next rail franchise with bidders being offered the option of running a service to Abbey Wood, which the government is earmarking as a station for Crossrail, which opens next year.

Southeastern’s franchise is set to expire at the end of the year.

Mr Grayling has assured Mrs Grant that the new arrangement aims to “put the passenger at the heart of the new franchise”.

In a letter to the MP he states: “Let me be clear, there is no intention to introduce degradation of today’s level of service…The option of an Abbey Wood service reflects that the Thameslink services will become the principal service to and from Maidstone and the city from December 2019.”

Critics claim the Thameslink service has been delayed a number of times with growing fears it will not happen.

Mrs Grant said: “I know that for my constituents who use it this service is a crucial part of their everyday lives, getting them into work quickly and conveniently.  Now that we have it, we simply cannot do without it.

“I made the importance of the service clear to the Secretary of State and told him of my anger that it once again feels like Maidstone is being put to the back of the queue, especially in the wake of the recent delay to the city Thameslink service.

“Mr Grayling is now, without doubt, clear about the impact that this would have upon local people and has offered reassurance that the people of Maidstone will not be worse off under the new franchise agreement. I will, of course, continue to keep up the pressure on the Government as the franchise process progresses.”

Rob Bird, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Kent County Council, said: “Mr Grayling’s letter shows that, once again, the Government cannot be trusted to deliver the train services which had previously been promised for Kent. Yet again the Government have demonstrated that they do not understand that good public transport is critical for the residents and businesses of Kent. We hope Kent MPs will support our call for the Secretary of State to think again.”