Report of public meeting on Longfield Rail Service
Concerns were raised that local stations appear to be the victims of powerful lobbies further east, although MPs and Councillors said they didn't want to make it a North v East Kent issue, as they all want a good train service.
Jeremy Kite of Dartford BC said Longfield had a good service but needed one due to passenger numbers. He said off peak trains were used by workers too. It's no use saying people can use Ebbsfleet as by the time you've got there there is no saving in time. He thought the pressure groups that have called for these proposals would not stop there, as there isn't an army of people calling for faster off peak trains.
A representative of the TSSA union also spoke against the proposals. Gareth Johnson joked it was nice to see Concervative MPs and Unions agreeing with each other!
Mike Gibson for Southeastern Railway said they are "totally neutral" on the proposal and there is no commercial advantage to them either way. They brought out the proposals because they had come under pressure to reduce journey times. He said current replies were overwhelmingly against with only Kent County Council in favour. If there are enough objections he thought the Department for Transport would have grave reservations implementing it. He said that if there was enough opposition they may not even bother referring the proposals to the Department for Transport.
A number of points and questions were raised by the audience, not all related to the issue of off peak trains:
(1) Is it worth chopping out Longfield and Meopham stops to save just 4 minutes?
(2) Could they increase capacity by adding track. Mr Gibson said that would be very expensive.
(3) Could there be more trains to the City of London. One remembered a shortlived service to Cannon Street about 20 years ago, and said it was "like heaven". Mr Gibson said extra trains for Blackfriars would be very difficult to fit in but it is an aspiration of Kent County Council. The Thameslink franchise is up for renewal soon, so he urged people to reply to the consultation on that when published.
(4) Why stop at St Mary Cray and Bromley South? Mr Gibson said Bromley Council is calling for more trains to St Mary Cray.
(5) Some speakers thought the proposals were the thin end of the wedge and that the real aim was for faster trains from east Kent in the peak.
(6) A young person said she and others travel off peak because they have internships and this was the only way they could afford to take the job.
(7) Do they know how many passengers are on trains? Mr Gibson said some trains can do this by weighing, 75kg being assumed for each passenger.
(8) Some Meopham speakers called for fast peak hour trains from Meopham. Mr Gibson said they could look at this but couldn't promise anything.
(9) A representative from Farningham parish council called for a better service to Farningham Road. Mr Gibson said he thought they would gain 1 train under the proposals.
(10) Other comments related to the general service. One person complained about the state of waiting facilities at Longfield and said they wouldn't use off peak trains if they had to wait longer. Mr Gibson said he would take that point back.
Meeting closed at 8.37pm
Posted on 20 Jun 2012 by administrator