Kent Coast Trains - No Quick Fix (January 14th 2010)
There is no quick fix likely to be available to satisfy long-suffering rail travellers using the Kent Coast Line. That is the message that has emerged from a meeting between South Eastern Railways boss, Charles Horton and North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, held at the House of Commons this (Thursday) morning.
The meeting, called by the MP in the light of rail users` complaints, was also attended by Mike Gibson (South Eastern and Herne Bay commuter and businessman Roy Coppins who has been working on behalf of fellow travellers to secure improvements.
"It was a worthwhile meeting but we have a long way to go before passengers from East Kent are likely to be satisfied" says Roger Gale.
In the very short term, and once South Eastern have had the advantage of some better weather in which to collect accurate data, it will be possible to fine-tune, for example, the length of trains to alleviate some overcrowding. I hope that such measures might be achieved by Easter.
Charles Horton has acknowledged that reliability and performance have not been anything like good enough in recent weeks and those issues, also will be addressed within the terms of the franchise.
Where it gets more difficult, however, is in the revision of the timetable. This is imposed upon the company by agreement with the Department for Transport. It will require a full review to iron out the failings and to begin to make the timetable work in the interests of commuters from East Kent.
I have received representations not only from Thanet but from Faversham, Canterbury and the Medway Towns. People feel very strongly that journeys, as a result of the introduction of HS1, are now longer, that trains are less frequent, that prices are too high and that the service to St. Pancras does not get them to where they want to be. Those travellers are not going to be happy with delay but I now have to see the Transport Minister, Lord Adonis, and call for a full review of the timetable commencing immediately.
I also need to meet with Network Rail to press, again, for the upgrading of the line between Ashford and a Thanet Parkway station and, most particularly, the modernisation of the signalling on the Kent Coast line - a job that should have been done by now.
We are, I fear, only at the beginning of this campaign