Maidstone joins high-speed revolution as first Javelin trains start
A "use it or lose it" plea has gone out to Maidstone
commuters on the day the County Town joined the high-speed rail
The first departure left Maidstone West station at 6.56am today
with a handful of passengers, including Maidstone and the Weald MP
Helen Grant and Southeastern's managing director Charles
The six-month experimental 47-minute service operates three
direct morning departures from the County Town and three return
evening services from St Pancras International.
But Southeastern officials have promised more services if the
introductory operation proves popular. Maidstone council leader
Chris Garland said it was a good day for the town. "Any improvement
to the train service has to be welcome," he said. "But we need to
keep it so the message to commuters is â€œuse it or lose it."
He admitted that it could be some time before the service wins
jobs for the County Town, but it was a good first step and the
council would be promoting the trains to businesses thinking of
setting up in the area and creating jobs.
The new service is a victory for officials lobbying for improved
rail links with London. But it does not satisfy commuters
campaigning for a restoration of conventional services to Cannon
Street and the City.
Mrs Grant said she would still campaign for the City service but
nevertheless was pleased with the new high-speed operation.
"It's a start and we need to embrace it. It's a good thing for
the County Town and I hope we make the most of it. Hopefully, it
will be good for regeneration. We've got to sell and market
Vince Lucas, Southeastern's director of service delivery, urged
Maidstone to promote the service in its sales pitch. "We can only
provide the train service, we can't do economic redevelopment."
The operator would make a decision on the service's longer-term
future within three months.
Proposals to put a tourist attraction in a former colliery are a step closer after receiving money from a government pot supporting coastal towns.
A management group is calling on traders to put their money behind a project to improve the standard of the city centre.
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