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More trains needed on high-speed network in Kent, says Ashford MP Damian Green

An MP has warned a town's high-speed train service risks being choked by its own success and has called for more trains to be added to tackle overcrowding.

Ashford's Damian Green, who raised the issue in a debate in the Commons on Tuesday, warned there would be even greater overcrowding on the popular trains unless ministers took decisive action very soon.

The high-speed network is at risk of becoming a victim of its own success
The high-speed network is at risk of becoming a victim of its own success

Last year, rail chiefs hailed a decade of high-speed trains - saying the service has revolutionised travel for passengers as journey times to and from Ashford to London were slashed to just 38 minutes.

But Mr Green says overcrowding on the line is now "a serious and growing problem".

He said: "The operator, Southeastern, has tried to compensate by changing the number of carriages on the most popular peak-time services and improving the repairs and maintenance programme so that more of the rolling stock is available at any one time, but this is not enough.”

“Essentially we need more rolling stock on the line.

"Passenger numbers have grown by an average of 11.7% every year since 2010, and there is no evidence this increase in demand is going to slow down in the near future.

"On current projections, 31 high speed services a day will be full to capacity by 2025, meaning that no passenger will be able to board even to stand all the way...”

"Indeed with major housing developments planned not only in Ashford but in other places along the line, we can expect the opposite.”

“The need for extra train services, and longer trains more often, is clear.

"On current projections, 31 high speed services a day will be full to capacity by 2025, meaning that no passenger will be able to board even to stand all the way.”

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said in reply to the concerns raised that they were “timely” as the government was set to replace the concept of franchises with a different approach.

“We do know this is a busy railway.

Damian Green MP. Picture: Tony Flashman
Damian Green MP. Picture: Tony Flashman

"It is highly likely the Williams Review will say the franchising model is not the way forward and a different system is needed."

Kent MPs debate future of county's high speed services

Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1 Ltd said: “We welcome today’s debate on the provision of increased rolling stock on the HS1 line, which is of the utmost importance to people travelling to and from Kent.

“Since services began in 2009, HS1 has facilitated phenomenal benefits for Kent and the surrounding region. However, it is important that services can keep pace with demand, and this will require the provision of increased rolling stock on the HS1 line.

“The cancellation of the South Eastern franchise has provided a real opportunity to consider how a new franchise can be used to deliver more high-speed train services between London and Kent.

"We urge the Government to seize this opportunity and enable the provision of new rolling stock to ensure that the benefits of HS1 continue to be fully enjoyed by people living and working in Kent and beyond.”

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