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Lib Dems describe Southeastern's rail summit response 'disappointing'

Wednesday 16th May 2018

THE future of Maidstone’s high speed rail link remains in doubt, it has been claimed, after train company bosses refused to guarantee services at Monday’s rail summit at County Hall. 

Rob Bird (pictured), leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Kent County Council, was among those putting questions to Southeastern’s managing director David Stantham.

In a statement released after the summit, the councillor for Maidstone Central accused Mr Stantham of failing to give an assurance that peak time high speed services from Maidstone West to London St Pancras will be maintained.

Mr Bird told the summit 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. He made it clear that nobody in Maidstone was interested in the alternative service to Abbey Wood, which Secretary of State Chris Grayling appeared to be advocating.

But in response, he said, 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 and that Southeastern is keen to develop a link with the new Crossrail service at Abbey Wood.

Cllr Bird said: “This was a very disappointing response.

“Maidstone is the county town of Kent, yet there can’t be many towns 30 miles, or less than 30 miles, from the centre of London with such a lousy rail service.

“Let us hope the other companies bidding for the franchise properly understand that high speed services are vital to the residents of Maidstone and the future growth of the town’s businesses.”

Mr Bird left the meeting pledging to keep up the pressure to keep Maidstone on the high speed rail map and urged commuters to sign his petition, opposing cuts in Kent’s rail services, at www.kent.lib.dm/HighSpeedTrain

In response to Cllr Bird’s earlier question, Phil Hutchinson, the head of strategic Planning at Govia Thameslink, confirmed it was doing everything possible to bring the Thameslink service to Maidstone East in December 2019.

The Secretary of State for Transport is expected to announce the winner of the new franchise for South East train services in November.

 

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