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Southeastern to be quizzed over rail cuts


Transport minister Theresa Villiers is to tackle rail company Southeastern over a claim it would cost £637,000 to restore services axed from west Kent and Maidstone.

Timetable changes brought in when the new high speed link opened saw wide-ranging cuts to services from west Kent, with several trains running into the City and Charing Cross axed.

The changes have led to complaints from commuters, with some being forced to sell their homes and move elsewhere.

Kent MPs, council chiefs and commuter groups stepped up their campaign to bring back the axed services at a meeting with Ms Villiers this week.

The meeting at Westminster was arranged by Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley, who was supported by Maidstone and Weald MP MP Helen Grant and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch.

After the meeting, Sir John said the minister had pledged to take up their concerns about the timetable changes directly with Southeastern.

He said she was particularly concerned to investigate the company’s claims that restoring the axed services would be too costly.

"She gave a commitment that she wanted to look at this afresh and to look in detail at the £637,000 figure Southeastern has demanded. We made some very useful progress and the minister intends to look at the figures with a searching and sceptical eye."

He added: "We presented the strongest possible case for the restoration of services on the Maidstone East line to Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge and told her of the devastating impact it has having on literally hundreds of constituents."

Ms Grant said the minister was left in no doubt about the consequences the cuts were having.

"She listened to the points we made and agreed to look at Southeastern’s figures. Many of our constituents have been affected in a quite devastating way."

Also at the meeting were Cllr Nick Chard from Kent County Council, representatives from Maidstone council and Tonbridge and Malling council and Martin Tripp, of the Malling and District Rail Travellers’ Association.

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