Carry on stand­ing…for years

No spare trains to ease prob­lems of over­crowd­ing on high-speed ser­vice

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Brexit - By Aidan Bar­low

Trans­port chiefs have told com­muters there are no new trains avail­able to end the mis­ery of over­crowd­ing on high-speed lines.

Com­muters say that the pop­u­lar­ity of ser­vices to St Pan­cras means that most trains are now too full to sit down by the time they reach Ash­ford sta­tion.

Town cen­tre res­i­dent Si­mon Jow­ers works at Ca­nary Wharf and said he faces the daily grind on board the high­speed trains.

He said: “I time my jour­ney for a max­i­mum chance of get­ting a seat. The rush hour ser­vice al­ready has barely suf­fi­cient ca­pac­ity to cope with de­mand.

“Some trains seem packed be­fore they reach Ash­ford and have lots of pas­sen­gers al­ready stand­ing.

“Given that the town is ex­pand­ing and there are no spare trains avail­able, and the amount of time it takes for new trains to be de­liv­ered, South­east­ern should be in­vest­ing now.”

Mr Jow­ers’ wife Jo chairs the Cen­tral Ash­ford Com­mu­nity Fo­rum, which has raised the is­sue with South­east­ern.

Sec­re­tary Emily Neigh­bour said: “By their own ad­mis­sion the trains are crowded or over­crowded with stand­ing room only.

“There are thou­sands of new homes be­ing built and peo­ple are mov­ing here to com­mute to Lon­don, but how is the com­pany go­ing to be able to fit all these ex­tra pas­sen­gers on board?”

In re­sponse South­east­ern cus­tomer re­la­tions of­fi­cer Kieran Dy­che apol­o­gised that jour­neys could be crowded and un­com­fort­able.

He said since 2006 pas­sen­ger num­bers had in­creased by 40%, which had led the com­pany to over­haul the timetable to meet de­mand with 200 ad­di­tional trains.

He said: “We’re con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the ser­vice to see how many pas­sen­gers are trav­el­ling and where we can, we move car­riages from less crowded ser­vices to lengthen busier ones.

“But we know we ul­ti­mately need more trains for our net­work. This is a pri­or­ity is­sue for us.

“The dif­fi­culty is there are no spare trains any­where in the coun­try right now that we could use.”

He warned that if the gov­ern­ment in­vested in new trains, it would take more than two years be­fore they would be in ser­vice on Kent’s rail­ways.

He said the com­pany had writ­ten to the gov­ern­ment to make the case for more trains, and was also work­ing with the De­part­ment for Trans­port to bring more ca­pac­ity to the net­work.

Ash­ford MP Damian Green said that new rolling stock would form part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions for the next fran­chise round.

‘This is a pri­or­ity is­sue for us’

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@ thek­m­group.co.uk

High-speed trains are so pop­u­lar that over­crowd­ing has be­come a prob­lem for Ash­ford com­muters

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