Maidstone East Fast Service: will DfT’s alternative be good enough?

The Department for Transport will shortly propose to local MPs an “alternative” Maidstone East service instead of the through Thameslink service original promised from December 2018.

Because of track layout at Blackfriars, trains terminating there have to run via Elephant & Castle and fit in with frequent slow services on the Catford Loop line. So we think that it may run semi-fast between Maidstone and Bromley South but may well have to run all stations between there and Blackfriars due to congestion on the route.

The table below shows the May 2018 service (col 1), the two current services (col 2), possible DfT proposal (col 3) and a “worst case” service calling at all stations (col 4). The journey time for each option is given in the bottom row
of the table.

Any alternative proposal for the Maidstone East line needs to be tested against the benefits offered to the community by the original proposal that is already over two years overdue:

  • Does the service offer a start to close of business service every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday?
  • Is the service fast enough to attract commuters away from the SE mainline and hence fulfil Network Rail’s objective of exploiting the only opportunity to increase peak capacity across west and mid Kent?
  • Are the timings fast enough to deter environmentally damaging railheading along country roads to reach the SE mainline and other services?
  • Will the new service provide fast access to London for Darent Valley line stations via same platform changes at Swanley?
  • Does it provide access to Heathrow and Docklands with just one change (by changing to Crossrail at Farringdon)?

Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association consider that our indicative DfT proposal fails on all criteria except the first.

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