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Southeastern: Managers to meet commuters at Whitstable train station over timetable changes

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Southeastern bosses will meet with concerned rail users at a 'meet the manager' session at Whitstable train station tomorrow morning.

Drastic changes to peak Southeastern services have been branded "bad news" by commuters relying on early-morning trains to get to work.

Now, they will have the chance to put their concerns directly to rail firm representatives, before the changes come into effect on Sunday, May 20.

MP Rosie Duffield meets local commuters angry at train timetable changes. Picture: Paul Amos (1659663)
MP Rosie Duffield meets local commuters angry at train timetable changes. Picture: Paul Amos (1659663)

Southeastern claims the revised timetable will provide "more services and new journey opportunities for many stations".

But passengers across the district have blasted the changes, which will see cuts to services from Whitstable and Faversham to London – and some train users facing longer journeys to the capital.

Rachel Jenner and husband Matt Sims moved to Old Bridge Road near Whitstable station last year, to reduce Matt’s commute to London.

But now the 5.40am train he usually catches to Victoria has been cut, and the 30-year-old plumber is facing a longer daily journey at a higher price.

Ms Jenner said: “He currently has to leave the house at 5.35am and has an hour-and-a-half commute, which costs us £4,900 a year.

“Now he will have no choice but to get the high-speed train to St Pancras. This will mean he must buy a tube ticket, increasing the yearly cost to £6,632.

Matt Sims and Rachel Jenner (1910718)
Matt Sims and Rachel Jenner (1910718)

“If he didn’t get the high-speed service, the only train from Whitstable that would get him to work on time would be the 4.59am, which is ridiculous.

“Our only other option would be to buy a second car and for him to drive to Faversham.”

The couple are due a baby in July and feel angry that Southeastern’s changes will force them to “lose even more family time”.

Many are also concerned about the removal of the popular service leaving Whitstable at 6.25am and Faversham at 6.34am - arriving into St Pancras at 7.37am.

Those currently using this service must instead leave Whitstable 11 minutes earlier, changing at Faversham for a high-speed train reaching London at 7.31am.

At the end of April, about 20 people turned out at Whitstable train station to meet with MP Rosie Duffield, and share their concerns over the cuts to services.

“People are really, really upset that they are going to have to begin their days half an hour or 45 minutes earlier, to get different trains to work,” said Charlotte Cornell, PA to MP Rosie Duffield.

MP Rosie Duffield with Southeastern manager Chris Vinson, at Portcullis House, Westminster (1910752)
MP Rosie Duffield with Southeastern manager Chris Vinson, at Portcullis House, Westminster (1910752)

“That could add up to three or four hours over one week.

“These changes are going to have a big impact on their family life.”

Ms Cornell and Ms Duffield met with Southeastern managers last week, to invite them to witness the knock-on effects of timetable changes at Whitstable station.

Local managers have now arranged to be at the station from 6.30am until 8.30am tomorrow (May 10), to hear from rail users who have concerns about the new timetable.

Ms Cornell said: "Rosie is pleased that after her lobbying, they are taking the step to meet those constituents that are concerned."

A meet the manager session will also be held from 5pm until 7pm on Thursday at Sevenoaks railway station. Others will be held elsewhere in Kent early next week.

Whitstable Railway Station. Picture: Paul Amos (1659636)
Whitstable Railway Station. Picture: Paul Amos (1659636)

Speaking last month, Southeastern spokesman Paul Prentice said the rail firm understood commuters’ worries.

He said: “The new Southeastern timetable includes major changes to train times across our network. There’ll be more frequent services and new journey opportunities from many stations, and we’ll be doubling the capacity on some high speed services.

“We’ve worked closely with Govia Thameslink Railway to integrate their new Thameslink services into the timetable. Thameslink trains will replace our services on some routes, and we’ll replace Thameslink services on others.”

For a full list of 'meet the manager' sessions, visit Southeastern's information page.

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