Published: 18:13, 20 October 2020
| Updated: 18:58, 20 October 2020
Rail campaigners and a Kent MP are urging Southeastern to restore direct trains connecting a major interchange to the Medway Valley line.
When the timetable was redrawn in September, train users discovered that the vast majority of services on the line would no longer run through to Tonbridge, instead terminating at Paddock Wood.
Now just two services a day serve Tonbridge directly, the 8.43am arrival and the 4.04pm departure.
As a result of the timetable changes, the passenger group Tonbridge Line Commuters and Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat are lobbying Southeastern to restore more regular connections, which previously saw off-peak trains running on to Tonbridge.
"I am deeply concerned about the removal of Tonbridge from almost all services on the Medway Valley line," Mr Tugendhat said.
"The excellent response I have had to the petition shows the strength of feeling about the need to maintain Tonbridge’s status as a key part of the line.
"It is essential that Southeastern restore this service as soon as possible.
"While it is encouraging that 98% of their services have remained, that is no consolation for the 2% of passengers - including those using the Medway Valley line - who now suffer from more trains, an extra change and poorer connections between Tonbridge and Wateringbury, Maidstone and Aylesford.
"There is so much potential on this line that I hope it could eventually go all the way to Gatwick. Ending services early is not the best way to make this happen."
Southeastern says the return of schools last month means it is more important that passengers are more evenly spread, avoiding crowding amid the coronavirus pandemic, and this is more difficult if delays disrupt the timetable.
A spokesman for the train operator said: "Our train planners have been able to extend two key services to Tonbridge which would have otherwise terminated or originated at Paddock Wood in the new timetable, to help mitigate the impact of this change, particularly on schoolchildren."