England

First class faces axe in Southeastern rail franchise deal

Southeastern train
Image caption Under a new franchise Southeastern could add new routes

First class travel on one of Britain's worst performing rail services is facing the axe under plans to tackle overcrowding, delay and poor service.

Passengers in south east London, Kent and East Sussex are being asked to give their views on the next franchise blueprint for Southeastern.

The operator's contract to run the service expires in December 2018.

The proposals by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also include options for new routes.

Among those proposed are a "London orbital service" connecting Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill and Reading, to take pressure away from the M20 and M25.

High Speed services to Hastings, Bexhill and Rye could also be extended "to speed up links between Hastings and London and support the development of the town".

About 640,000 journeys are made on 1,900 Southeastern trains every week day.

'Unacceptably poor'

Under the new franchise agreement for routes currently operated by network, trains could be made fully standard class.

The Department for Transport (DfT) consultation said although first class tickets were popular on certain routes, removing them would "create more room for passengers, which would be important during peak hours".

The new franchise could also see the introduction of high capacity, metro-style carriages on the busiest lines, giving a "better balance" of seating and room for standing passengers, space for wheelchairs and pushchairs on shorter journeys and quicker boarding and alighting at stations.

However, there could also be a reduction in the number of trains that call at some less well-used stations to cut journey times to key locations, and a limit in the choice of central London destinations from some stations.

Mr Grayling said services on the network had been "unacceptably poor for far too long", and passengers "deserve better".

The DfT consultation closes on 23 May.

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