Published: 13:00, 07 February 2018
A campaign to save Maidstone’s high speed rail services to London has been taken to the top of government after MP Helen Grant met with the transport secretary this week.
Mrs Grant held a one-to-one meeting with Chris Grayling in parliament on Tuesday to discuss the enormous local concern over the threats to the popular service which runs three times every morning and evening from Maidstone West to St Pancras.
So far some 1,500 people have signed a petition launched by our sister newspaper, the Kent Messenger, urging the government to retain the 52-minute service, after we revealed plans to scrap them in favour of a slower service to Abbey Wood, which is being earmarked as a key station for the incoming Crossrail route in the new south east rail franchise.
It comes amid further concerns for the much-anticipated Thameslink service linking Maidstone East and the city, which has been pushed back until December 2019, with some growing concerned it may never materialise at all after it emerged the Department for Transport asked potential franchisees how they would respond if the introduction of the service was “delayed indefinitely”.
Mrs Grant, who represents Maidstone and the Weald, said after the meeting: “I know that for my constituents who use it this service is a crucial part of their everyday lives, getting them into work quickly and conveniently. Now that we have it, we simply cannot do without it.
“I made the importance of the service clear to the secretary of state and told him of my anger that it once again feels like Maidstone is being put to the back of the queue, especially in the wake of the recent delay to the city Thameslink service.
“Mr Grayling is now, without doubt, clear about the impact that this would have upon local people and has offered reassurance the people of Maidstone will not be worse off under the new franchise agreement.
“I will, of course, continue to keep up the pressure on the government as the franchise process progresses.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are consulting on the next south eastern franchise, which will put passengers at the heart of everything it does - there will be no reduction in services and any changes will only be introduced if they benefit passengers.
“There will be a minimum of two high speed services from Maidstone West in the morning and evening peak, and the improved Thameslink route will also provide journeys between Maidstone, the City and St Pancras.
“There will also be an option to run a service to Abbey Wood, but only if it provide benefits above those offered by the High Speed service, such as improved journey times to Canary Wharf, Bond Street and Heathrow via Crossrail.”
To sign the petition, click here.
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