Call for return of Tonbridge to Gatwick rail link

Southern train
Image caption The South Central franchise is operated by Southern Railway

A Kent council has called for a direct rail link from the west of the county to Gatwick airport to be restored.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council wants two direct services an hour, removing the need to change at Redhill.

The direct link was lost in 2008 when the route was incorporated into the South Central Rail Franchise, now operated by Southern Railway.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it planned to begin a new franchise consultation later this month.

Rail manifesto

"People travelling from Tonbridge now have to change at Redhill, which is not the greatest experience," said Steve Humphreys, the council's director of transport.

"It's a real problem. It can add delay and uncertainty to business and holiday people getting to one of our major airports.

"There is a fantastic catchment in Kent for this to be a major commercial success and we know we are supported by the people who run the airport."

The Tonbridge to Gatwick proposal is part of a rail manifesto the council has sent to Transport Minister Theresa Villiers.

Mr Humphreys said the council wanted the route to be returned to the Kent rail franchise, currently operated by Southeastern.

The DfT said in a statement: "We plan to consult on the Southeastern franchise later this month, giving all passengers and interested stakeholders the chance to have their say on what they would like the next franchise to look like."

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