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Petition over plans to reduce trains between Tonbridge and Ashford

By Claire McWethy

Plans to cut train services to stations between Tonbridge and Ashford have been branded “disastrous” by one campaigner, who is urging commuters to sign a petition against the move.

It comes as the government holds 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.

One of the goals of the Department for Transport is to speed up long-distance journeys which have a high travel time relative to the length of the route.

Southeastern's franchise is coming up for renewal

Southeastern's franchise is coming up for renewal

Among the options being explored is reducing calls at “less well used stations” to deliver an hourly fast service between Tonbridge to Ashford.

The consultation states: “Other services would still stop at these stations. Although we would be delivering faster journeys, we recognise that this has the potential to inconvenience passengers that currently use those intermediate stations.”

If the proposals go ahead, it could mean less frequent trains stopping at Pluckley, Headcorn, Staplehurst, Marden, and Paddock Wood, and commuters fear that could eventually lead to the services being cancelled altogether.

So far, a petition against any cuts to rural services has received more than 300 signatures within a week of going online.

Commuters are unhappy about the proposals. Stock image

Commuters are unhappy about the proposals. Stock image

Martin Chambers, who started the campaign, said: “Signing this petition means that you reject any reduction in rail services between Tonbridge and Ashford in Kent.

“We believe this would be disastrous for the communities, towns and villages along this line and could potentially lead to the closure of the stations altogether.”

The government is asking for passengers’ views on the plans as part of a consultation running until Tuesday, May 23. To sign the petition click here.

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