Kent

Kent council reveals demands for new rail franchise

Southeastern passengers
Image caption Southeastern's franchise has been extended by two years to March 2014

Regular peak period trains to London's West End and City stations should run from every major town in Kent, county transport bosses have said.

The demands come in a Kent County Council action plan, which will be used to influence the next rail franchise when it is decided in 2014.

There are also calls for more high speed trains and better services to and from Maidstone.

Passenger Focus supports the plan but is most concerned with fare prices.

Tunde Olatunji, a rail passenger manager for the watchdog, said the start of high speed services to London in 2009 were welcomed but that they also came with "unwelcome baggage".

"Fares went up, with a reduction in peak services from north Kent and the loss of services to Cannon Street," he added.

"Passengers want to see an improvement in rail frequency, but value for money is also a very important factor. We need to get the government to start understanding what our needs are."

Service concerns

The rail action plan describes services from Maidstone East as "completely unacceptable" and says it should have an hourly service to Blackfriars.

Operator Southeastern plans to introduce a high speed peak service from Maidstone West in May, but the action plan wants this made available all day.

Journey times on mainline routes in north Kent must be reduced and the number of high speed trains from Ashford and Ebbsfleet should double, the report continues.

High speed services to east Kent should also be included in the new franchise, which will be decided by the Department for Transport.

Kent council will also call on the government to limit fare increases to the current level of 3% above inflation.

A spokesman for Southeastern said: "These are great things for Kent to aspire to and we would be more than happy to consider them if we are awarded the next franchise."

The action plan follows a series of rail summit meetings organised by Kent County Council, at which passengers have expressed their concerns about services.

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