Letter to Charles Horton, November 2008
It is intimated to me in this place that my constituent commuters and others travelling from Margate, Westgate, Birchington and Herne Bay to London are once again likely to face the imposition of a considerably above-average rail fare increase for the coming year.
If that is so then it will be the third year in succession in which passengers from East Kent will be asked to pay for a domestic service that is diminishing and for a "high-speed" line to a terminus that they do not wish to arrive at. Such a situation would be intolerable and could, in the present economic climate, even lead to civil disobedience.
Your company's website indicates that "New High Speed trains from Kent to St.Pancras International will dramatically reduce journey times". For those travelling from, say, Birchington to work in Whitehall, Westminster, Victoria or The City the total journey times (including underground) are likely to be appreciably longer and the costs appreciably higher still. I do not regard that as offering the "faster more convenient link to London" that your website suggests and nor can I see that it will "greatly benefit the Kent region and transform business in the area".
Only real investment in the upgrading of the line between Ashford and Thanet, and the creation of a Parkway station, will make a significant difference to the prospects of East Kent and to date I detect no sign that either South East Trains or Network Rail are prepared to make that commitment.
You are, I think, in danger of loading the costs so heavily against rail and so far in favour of the single passenger travelling from East Kent to London by car that your increases will prove dangerously counter-productive. I would welcome your assurance that this year's increase will be at or below the 3.3% plus inflation at July or, if this is not your present plan, urge you to think again. My constituents cannot bear yet another unrealistic burden.
I am, because of the importance of this issue to those that I represent, making my concerns known to the Kent media.
Roger Gale, MP