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Maidstone to be 're-routed' on slow train line to London

Thursday 4th February 2021

CONTROVERSIAL plans to reroute a proposed high-speed rail link from Maidstone to London along a “slower” line, is to be scrutinised by councillors.

Kent County Council’s (KCC) scrutiny committee will hold an extraordinary meeting next week and review proposals to create a “slow” train service between the County Town and the capital, potentially taking 80 minutes.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have jointly called-in a decision made by County Hall’s Conservative executives last week to adopt a rail action plan, which seeks to create several new train services in Kent from 2021 to 2030.

At the time, KCC’s rail manager, Stephen Gasche, urged government ministers to deliver a long-awaited Thameslink service from Maidstone East station to Cambridge via St Pancras, Blackfriars, Borough Green and West Malling.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris indicated his tentative support for the service, with two trains per hour.

Amid a row, KCC’s Liberal Democrats claim an “under-an-hour” rail link from London to Maidstone has been abandoned in favour of a “slower” service to the city using the Catford Loop, which may run via Denmark Hill.

Maidstone member Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) said: “A slow service to London Blackfriars will do nothing for Maidstone rail passengers and does nothing to support businesses in the county town. It is also a massive disappointment for other Kent communities, who were hoping to benefit from the new Thameslink services.”

It currently takes commuters just over an hour to travel from Maidstone East to London Victoria station, passing through Malling, Sevenoaks and Bromley.

Cllr Andy Booth (Con), chair of KCC’s scrutiny committee, stressed that “no stones would be left unturned” when County Hall’s rail action plan is probed.

At the meeting, KCC’s scrutiny committee will have the power to ask KCC’s Conservative cabinet to reconsider its original decision or request a full council review by all 81 members at a later date.

A final decision will be made during a virtual meeting next Wednesday (Feb 10).