Published: 13:37, 25 March 2019
| Updated: 13:39, 25 March 2019
Rail bosses are being urged to make sure a railway station is refurbished and fit to welcome people to a town.
Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, and the Faversham Society are calling on the government to make sure operators are forced to restore the town's historic Victorian building to its former glory.
The Department for Transport is due to award the franchise for rail services in Kent later this year to decide the company to run trains across the South East.
But Ms Whately says whoever wins the contract in the summer must “do more than maintain the building”, with the Faversham Society adding the dilapidated station has been “neglected” in recent years.
In a letter to rail minister Andrew Jones, Mrs Whately says the state of the station means it is no longer “a suitable welcome to Faversham, the market town of kings”.
The MP is seeking assurances from the minister about the requirements the new operator will have to restore important heritage assets like Faversham station.
Ms Whately said: “The station sets the scene when you arrive in Faversham, whether you’re a tourist or a commuter getting home after a long day in the office.
“It used to be a source of pride, but in recent decades it has become increasingly dilapidated.
“It’s not like it’s falling into disuse – on the contrary, footfall went up 60,000 last year.
“I’m supporting the Faversham Society who have long campaigned for the station to be restored.
II want the next franchise owner to do more than maintain the building.
“Let’s see it restored to its former glory as a gateway to the town we can be proud of.”
The station was built in 1858 and is Grade II-listed and it is hoped the building will feature among the town’s Open House event, which is marking its 50th anniversary in 2019.
Harold Goodwin, the chairman of the Faversham Society, says the group has been concerned with the “poor state” of the station for a long time but progress is being made after a series of meetings organised by the MP with rail bosses and society members.
“It used to be an appropriate entrance to our town.
“In recent years it has been neglected with vegetation and water damage,” he said.
“We tried to meet with the railway companies but without Helen Whately’s convening power we were unable to secure a meeting.”
The society hopes the “reinstatement of the footbridge” will mean the station can be a part of its Open House festival, a showcase of historic buildings in Faversham on the first three Saturdays in July.
Ms Whatley also raises concerns in her letter to the rail minister about the way the previous responsibilities with franchisees for maintenance were agreed.
She adds: “I understand that when the current franchise holder took over managing the station, their view was that it was already in a state of disrepair they felt that they weren’t required to do more than maintain it.”
Southeastern started its contract in 2014 and says it has invested £70m in train and station refurbishments in the past five years.
The company’s parent firm, Govia, is one of the operators shortlisted by the government for the new franchise.
Southeastern did not respond to requests for comment.