Our Man in West­min­ster

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View - By Damian Green

Two hugely im­por­tant con­sul­ta­tions for ev­ery­one who uses the rail­ways are tak­ing place at present. Net­work Rail is dis­cussing the fu­ture net­work con­fig­u­ra­tion in this area, and even more im­por­tantly the Depart­ment of Trans­port is con­sult­ing on the next fran­chise holder, when the cur­rent South East­ern fran­chise comes to an end.

Kent MPs had a pro­duc­tive meet­ing with the Rail Min­is­ter Paul May­nard about this, and the short term prob­lems af­fect­ing our ser­vices such as the short­age of car­riages, which can of­ten lead to over-crowd­ing.

On the over-rid­ing is­sue of re­li­a­bil­ity, we learned that although the num­ber of in­di­vid­ual in­ci­dents is fall­ing, the net­work is run­ning so close to its ca­pac­ity that ev­ery in­ci­dent tends to cause more se­ri­ous de­lays. For those who like to take out their un­der­stand­able fury on South East­ern, it is an in­ter­est­ing fact that the in­di­vid­ual faults are roughly two thirds down to Net­work Rail, and only one third down to South East­ern. This is about the av­er­age for the whole na­tional net­work.

One of the points on which MPs from both west and east Kent were unan­i­mous was that we did not want the Mayor of Lon­don (who­ever it is) de­cid­ing the sched­ules for trains run­ning into Lon­don from the county. Fur­ther in on the line there are de­mands for Trans­port for Lon­don to take over the fran­chise but this would leave us very vul­ner­a­ble.

We were also all in­ter­ested in the thought that the new fran­chise could be a part­ner­ship be­tween the re­gional arm of Net­work Rail and an oper­at­ing com­pany.

The Trans­port Sec­re­tary has in­di­cated his will­ing­ness to look at new ways of or­gan­is­ing fran­chises, so this may be a pos­si­bil­ity. The fran­chise con­sul­ta­tion ends on May 23, so if you have thoughts do email them to me be­fore then.

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