Carry on standing…for years
No spare trains to ease problems of overcrowding on high-speed service
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