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Bearsted Commuter Group says journey to London was faster in days of steam

By Claire McWethy
Train journeys from London to Bearsted were faster 65 years ago than today, a commuter group has revealed.
 
In 1950 steam trains took between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 29 minutes to chug from the village to the capital, and as little at 1 hour 12 minutes on the return trip.
 
Nowadays it takes Southeastern services up to 1 hour 21 minutes to complete the journey to London at peak times and 1 hour 16 minutes on the way back.
 
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The journey from Bearsted to London was quicker by steam in the 1950s. Picture Claire Newton, Steam Dreams

The journey from Bearsted to London was quicker by steam in the 1950s. Picture: Claire Newton, Steam Dreams

 
The comparison was made by members of Bearsted Commuter Group, set up by four passengers in autumn, following a long run of delays, fare hikes and overcrowding on services.
 
Five months on it has 50 members, and they have just had their first meeting with rail bosses.
 
One of the founders, Helen Judges, said: “I hope things will change, particularly fares and timetables. We are disgruntled about late running trains and while we appreciate we might not get 100% punctuality, there’s no point having a timetable if it happens this frequently.”
 
 
Watch: Commuter group says journey from Bearsted to London was faster in 1950s
 
Bearsted train users are not alone in their frustrations according to a new survey released by Which?
 
It found Kent’s commuters were among the unhappiest in the UK, with only passengers on Southern railways feeling more disgruntled. It found a third of all passengers on Southeastern trains had been delayed on their last trip.
 
Kate Neill, from the consumer watchdog, said: “They’re at the bottom because they are providing a pretty poor service that is generally delayed, not very clean and overcrowded, so people are fed up with not getting a seat and paying for that privilege.”
 
Helen Judges, one of the founders of the Bearsted Commuter Group

Helen Judges, one of the founders of the Bearsted Commuter Group

 
But a Southeastern spokesman said performance had dipped at the time of November’s survey due to a broken crossing at Lewisham and several signalling problems.
 
She added: “A robust timetable introduced last month has already seen punctuality improve. In March, we will start a deep cleaning programme of all our trains that will improve the travelling experience,” she added.
 
The company is investing more than £70 million over the next three years in extra staff and improving the condition of trains and stations.

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