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Decision on future of Maidstone and Snodland's high speed trains to London delayed

A decision on the future of Maidstone and Snodland's high speed trains to London has been delayed once again by the government.

The winner of the new south eastern rail franchise, responsible for running trains across Kent and beyond, was initially expected to be announced in December.

Buried among a series of service requirements was the option of scrapping high-speed services – of which there are three every weekday morning and evening – in favour of an alternative route to Abbey Wood, where passengers could continue their journey into the city via Crossrail.

Transport campaigner James Willis talks about possible changes to high speed services

After the Kent Messenger first revealed the proposals, there has been a fierce backlash from commuters and politicians alike.

More than 2,000 people signed a petition against the plans, although Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has pledged "no degradation" of services.

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch then secured a meeting with rail minister Andrew Jones to raise concerns and has now been told a decision has been pushed back until June 23.

In a letter to Ms Crouch, he said: "The department is undertaking essential due diligence on bidders proposals to ensure that the next franchise is both sustainable and delivers real benefits for both customers and taxpayers.

Concerned passengers and local councillors taking part in the KM campaign to save high speed trains at Maidstone West on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Davey
Concerned passengers and local councillors taking part in the KM campaign to save high speed trains at Maidstone West on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Davey

"I would like to reassure you that I remain fully committed to ensuring this competition reaches a successful conclusion and in a timely manner."

Ms Crouch said after receiving the letter: "While my initial response was one of despair, it does allow me more time to lobby the government for the full continuation of high speed services through Snodland, improvements in rolling stock and a greater commitment to better communications for passengers regularly caught up in delays."

It comes as Kent County Council's Joint Transportation Board has also drafted a letter, signed by leading figures across the county, urging the government to retain the popular services.

The Kent Messenger newspaper has launched a campaign to save Maidstone West's high speed trains to the capital. (6365862)
The Kent Messenger newspaper has launched a campaign to save Maidstone West's high speed trains to the capital. (6365862)

Transport campaigner James Willis added: "It's excellent that,across Maidstone, commuters backed by business and all political colours, have come together, and now MP Ms Crouch is fighting hard.

"The good news is, back in December she was promised a meeting with the rail minister; I urge this to happen as soon as possible.

"This is a decision the DfT and government minister must take responsibility for.

"January is going to be a key month as the minister has said the decisions to keep our cherished high speed services are still being made."

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