Threat to village rail services on Tonbridge to Ashford lines (and maybe Hollingbourne?) – UPDATED.

The Department of Transport is conducting a consultation on the future of rail services in Kent and already 10,000 have signed a petition to against a proposal to reduce stops at village stations on the Tonbridge to Hastings route in order to reduce the travel time to London from Hastings. The possibility of reducing stops on the Tonbridge to Ashford route and maybe other lines is also being mooted. The closing date for comments is 23rd May 2017.

Hollingbourne Station is unmanned and over 40,000 recorded passengers use the station every year which is a number that has increased by around 50% over the last 10 years. Parking is free at the station and commuters travel from miles around to the station as seats are more available on London trains than from stations closer to London such as Bearsted or Maidstone East.  Also running through the village is the Channel Tunnel Rail Link which carries about 10 million passengers a year or less than a third of the numbers forecast by British Rail in 1988 when the Rail Link, now HS1, was being planned. Unfortunately a lack of stations has meant that there is significant capacity on the fast Rail Link while the slower South East Trains also serving Kent are often overcrowded.

Hollingbourne Parish Council has been reminded of the consultation by the Kent Association of Local Councils with the following message:-

Dear Member Councils

In case you haven’t picked it up already, on 14 March, the Department for Transport (DfT) launched a consultation on the South Eastern Rail Franchise. The consultation deadline is 23 May. The consultation can be accessed via https://www.gov.uk/government/news/south-eastern-franchise-consultation-launched. The DfT’s ambitions for this franchise include:

  • creating more space for passengers by running longer trains and upgrading or replacing older trains
  • increasing reliability and reducing delays by the train operator working closely with Network Rail
  • improving compensations arrangements with a simple automated system
  • introduction of a smarter payment system, including mobile phones
  • improving customer service with staff able to respond quickly and effectively to passenger’s needs

We understand that this will be the first franchise to have an integrated operating team between train services and infrastructure. The new operator must form an alliance with Network Rail. If you do respond to the consultation, we would be grateful if you could copy us your response.

Kind Regards

Terry Martin

Chief Executive

Kent Association of Local Councils

Tel 01304 820173

Website: www.kentalc.gov.uk

Hollingbourne Parish Council has been campaigning since last summer to have the lights on Station Lane repaired. Station Lane is long and dark and can be dangerous at night. The matter has been referred backwards and forwards between South East Trains and Network Rail several times and the matter is unresolved although Network Rail have now promised to send somebody to look at the lights. The Parish Council will be represented at the Annual Kent Rail Summit on 15th May in County Hall. 

UPDATE – At the Rail Summit in County Hall on 15th May Mr David Statham, Managing Director of South Eastern Trains, was asked why the lights had not been repaired after nine months. The Parish Council was subsequently advised that the work has to be done by Network Rail who need to relay the electric cable under the Station Lane. South Eastern’s Mr Mike Gibson has promised to update the Parish Council on the work. South eastern trains have also announced a 3.4% increase in off peak fares which will be limited to 10p a journey.