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Newspaper Columns

KM Column - Maidstone East Line - 22 August 2019

Rail fares are going up - again. But that doesn’t mean the service, speed or timeliness, will be too. Many of us pay a premium price to get to work every day and for that, we expect a premium service that takes us to where we need to be. And for those of us living near West Malling, East Malling and Borough Green we’ve been waiting too time. Ten years after services to Cannon Street were removed from the Maidstone East line, we were promised a Thameslink service, first in May 2018, then December 2018, then December 2019. I’ve been doing whatever I can to increase services to the City since I was first elected and have kept a constant pressure on ministers to make sure it’s delivered. However, over the last few months, talk of Thameslink delivering this much needed line later this year has gone quiet.

It has now become clear that, with only a few months to go, it is not going to happen. In fact, we may be waiting another three to four years. Many things are delaying our trains from running, including stabling (where to park the trains when they’re not in use), updating Traffic Management Systems (signalling and more) and identifying the train paths which will be used. But this should all have been figured out a long time ago and leaves me very disappointed in the management of our railways. To fail again to deliver this service is not only incredibly unfair on those who have been waiting such a long time but, worse, passengers will again be expected to pay more for their rail fares, even though this service hasn’t been delivered. I cannot see a justification for a price increase.

That is why I have written to the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, to ask that the increase in rail fare is not passed onto those who use the Maidstone East line and that ticket prices remain as they are until the line is fully active.

Georgie Welford