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Plan to scrap Maidstone West high speed service 'completely unacceptable' say politicians to Chris Grayling

Councillors and MPs have made a fresh bid to keep a high speed service running from Maidstone West.

With the south eastern rail franchise expected to change hands later this year, government documents have suggested the high speed service between Maidstone West and London St Pancras could be scrapped.

Kent Messenger led a campaign to preserve the service, with a petition gathering more than 2,000 signatures.

Department for Transport documents showed bidders had the option of running services to Abbey Wood instead of high speed to St Pancras.

Now the transport secretary Chris Grayling is facing fresh pressure to keep the high speed service running.

A letter, penned by MPs, council leaders and business leaders, reads: "The removal of the current High Speed service between Maidstone West and London St. Pancras would be completely unacceptable.

"Its potential replacement by a service to Abbey Wood linking to Crossrail would increase journey times, disrupt commuting patterns, and have a detrimental impact on this region.

"Likewise, the new Thameslink service from Maidstone East to Cambridge is vitally important to commuters and the future of this town.

"The impact of this uncertainty endangers economic growth, employment and delivery of much needed housing.

High speed train waits at Maidstone West. Picture: Chris Davey (3258761)
High speed train waits at Maidstone West. Picture: Chris Davey (3258761)

"We would welcome your assurances that any bid resulting in the removal or diminution of the High Speed Service from Maidstone West to London St Pancras (via Snodland) would be rejected, and that there will be no further delay to the promised Thameslink Service."

The letter was signed by MPs Helen Grant (Maidstone and the Weald) and Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent), along with council leaders Maritn Cox (Maidstone), Nicholas Heslop (Tonbridge and Malling) and Paul Carter (Kent).

It comes weeks after Tracey Crouch had a meeting rail minster Andrew Jones.

The Chatham and Aylesford MP raised concerns the number of High Speed 1 peak services from Snodland to St Pancras could drop from three to two.

Ms Crouch said: "A possible reduction in services would only encourage more road traffic to stations at Strood and West Malling.

"This would not only put further pressure on already stretched infrastructure but increase costs for passengers through parking costs at other stations."

Business leaders Geoff Miles, chair of the Kent & Medway business advisory board, Liz Stanley, chair of Marden Business Forum and Paul Thomas, chair of Maidstone Business Partnership, all signed the letter to Mr Grayling.

A decision on the future of the franchise will be made in June.

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