Gov­ern­ment pres­sured to rule out ax­ing train stops

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Drivers Under The Pump - By Claire McWethy

The gov­ern­ment has re­as­sured com­muters no ru­ral train sta­tions will be axed – but cuts to ser­vices may still be on the cards.

More than 11,000 peo­ple signed a pe­ti­tion against pro­pos­als to re­duce stops be­tween Ton­bridge and Ash­ford, to de­liver an hourly fast ser­vice con­nect­ing the two towns.

It comes af­ter the Depart­ment for Trans­port held a con­sul­ta­tion on pos­si­ble im­prove­ments to the rail net­work, while also look­ing to find the next op­er­a­tor for the re­gion when South­east­ern’s fran­chise ex­pires in De­cem­ber 2018.

If the plans were to go ahead, it would mean fewer trains serv­ing Pluck­ley, Head­corn, Sta­ple­hurst, Mar­den, and Pad­dock Wood, and com­muters fear that could even­tu­ally lead to ser­vices be­ing can­celled al­to­gether.

Re­spond­ing to com­muters’ fears in a state­ment last week, the gov­ern­ment ruled out shut­ting any sta­tions, adding: “If ser­vice to cer­tain in­ter­me­di­ate stops were re­duced, hourly fast ser­vices could be cre­ated be­tween key des­ti­na­tions, of­fer­ing faster jour­ney times. All in­ter­me­di­ate sta­tions would con­tinue to be served by at least an hourly ser­vice. We are not propos­ing to stop ser­vices to or from any sta­tion.

“The Depart­ment for Trans­port recog­nises that this has the po­ten­tial to in­con­ve­nience pas­sen­gers that cur­rently use those in­ter­me­di­ate sta­tions. Any changes would there­fore only be made if pas­sen­gers over­all ben­e­fit­ted, and trav­ellers from lesser-used sta­tions were not un­duly dis­ad­van­taged.”

How­ever, Kent County Coun­cil has urged the gov­ern­ment to go a step fur­ther, and rule out ax­ing any ru­ral stops.

In its re­sponse to the con­sul­ta­tion, the au­thor­ity said: “The Ash­ford to London via Ton­bridge ser­vice would need to re­tain its cur­rent stop­ping pat­tern to re­flect the growth in de­mand at in­ter­me­di­ate sta­tions on this route.

If Maid­stone Bor­ough Coun­cil’s draft Lo­cal Plan is ap­proved, 1,580 homes will be built in Head­corn, Sta­ple­hurst and Mar­den alone, cre­at­ing greater de­mand for an al­ready well-used ser­vice. The pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ended on June 30 and the con­clu­sions will be pub­lished in the au­tumn.

Pic­ture: Matthew Walker

The gov­ern­ment has said no ru­ral train sta­tions on the route will be closed

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