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Published: 12:09, 29 November 2018
| Updated: 12:20, 29 November 2018
Concern over the potential loss of high speed services from Maidstone West have been raised in parliament.
Bidders looking to take over the south eastern rail franchise from Southeastern have been given the option to scrap high speed services from Maidstone West via Snodland, replacing it with a new service to Abbey Wood.
Yesterday Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch confronted MP Andrew Jones over constituents' fears, managing to arrange a meeting with the transport under-secretary.
She said: "High Speed 1, which runs through my constituency, has helped to alleviate the pressure on the branch lines.
"In fact, it has been so successful that we have managed to get it to stop at Snodland, around which there has been a vast amount of house building, and it has been enormously popular.
"I raised the issue with the minister’s predecessor, but there are now concerns that, as part of the new franchise, High Speed 1 will no longer stop at Snodland.
"Given that there is a delay in announcing the next franchise, will the minister meet me to discuss how we can ensure my constituents in Snodland are still served by an incredibly successful and important part of the south eastern franchise?"
Mr Jones responded: "I will of course be delighted to meet my honourable friend. We will set up that meeting promptly."
In January the Department for Transport outlined a series of service requirements for bidders once the new south eastern rail franchise is awarded.
In those requirements bidders had an option to scrap the 52-minute Maidstone West service, which runs three times each weekday morning and evening to St Pancras International.
Instead the service would end at Abbey Wood, where passengers could continue their journey into the capital via Crossrail.
It is estimated the proposed changes will add at least another 20 minutes to passengers' journeys every morning and evening.
A new bidder was expected to be appointed franchise holder in December, but Mr Jones said a decision would be made "in the new year".
He added: "The reason for the delay is that the evaluation of the agreement for the next franchise has taken longer than anticipated because we wanted to ensure that passengers get the best deal possible."