The delayed “Kent Area Route Study” by Network Rail has been published this week. Once again Network Rail have failed to suggest a coherent strategy for the long-term increase in capacity to meet rising passenger demand in Kent.
By 2024 the number of peak hour coaches needs to increase by 15%, which might be possible by all 12-coach trains and some track rearrangement at Cannon Street – and even then the modelling shows that customers standing from High Brooms on some services.
Then it gets worse. By 2044 there is a need for 44% more coaches than now. The Study finds that “the additional five paths from Tonbridge could not be accommodated in the timetable” and that “a strategy for providing additional capacity for Kent services is far more challenging“. There are multiple constraints, including terminal capacity in London, the number of “flat junctions” and the two-track section between Orpington and Tonbridge – some of which come from a century of under-investment.
Disappointingly, there’s no long-term strategy for overcoming these constraints as a whole. There’s a vague reference to “the need to examine further the benefits of Traffic Management on the Kent Routes and where digital solutions provide a cost-effective alternative“, reflecting Network Rail’s current infatuation with the “Digital Railway”. There’s also a possibility that Charing Cross will be rebuilt. But there’s no coherent and systematic plan to draw up the overall investment and capacity enhancement strategy that the route from west Kent to London will need over the next 25 years.
The Study has been published as a “draft of consultation” and comments are invited by 30 June. We’ll be examining the Study and its Technical Annex in detail over the next few weeks alongside the consultation on the next Southeastern franchise, and responding to both with a call for the systematic and sustained investment that the region needs.
What do you think? Please let us know here.