Local commuters demand “Honour Your Thameslink Commitments”

Thameslink Train

Our local MP, Laura Trott has arranged a 30 minute public meeting with Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, about the government’s failure to provide the long awaited Maidstone East to Cambridge fast service. The meeting will start at 17.30 on December 14th 2020.

The proposed service is from Maidstone East calling at Otford and Swanley and then fast to London Bridge and the City. The details of the half hourly service running from the start of the day to close of service would transform travel options along the line from Maidstone, Otford and Swanley to London. The draft timetable was published in June 2017. Swanley to London Bridge will take just 24 minutes, Otford 33 minutes and Maidstone East 58 minutes.

In December 2019, railway industry trade journal, Modern Railways, reported that Chris Heaton-Harris had written to Kent CC advising that “the Government does not intend to intend to proceed to introduce a Maidstone East Thameslink service unless it can be assured that this can be done without the sort of disruption seen in May 2018”.

However, since then Laura Trott asked the Prime Minister about the service in the House of Commons. Boris Johnson replied that “I thank my hon. Friend for rightly raising the issue of rail connections between Maidstone East and the City. In addition to the £48 billion we are putting into the railways, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has just indicated to me that those connections are his highest priority”. (HoC Feb 26th 2020)

Network Rail have written in their Kent Route Study that there is no ability to increase peak capacity on the main line through Sevenoaks, and a Maidstone East fast service is the only possibility for more capacity for the whole of the western half of Kent. It would substantially increase usage of a currently under-used resource and eliminate rat running along country roads through local communities to reach already overcrowded services on other lines.

The key to introducing the new service is the two paths through the Thameslink core allocated to Maidstone. Other routes, some already far better served than Maidstone, such as from Brighton and Gatwick, want those paths to further expand their services.

If we do not act NOW, we will see those paths allocated to other less deserving services and any prospects of improving our services from western Kent will disappear for ever.

In just 30 minutes we need the Minister to tell us what is delaying our new service and when his section of the Department for Transport with Network Rail will finally deliver this long promised service.

More than anything else, attendance at this virtual meeting, can persuade the Minister to honour the Prime Minister’s commitment.

Giving just 30 minutes of your time to attend this virtual meeting will get the trains moving.

To attend the meeting contact Laura Trott’s office through www.lauratrott.org.uk.

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