Improving Kent's train services

My aims 

• Reliably on-time trains, especially key commuter services

• Shorter journey times to London

• Fairer fares and part-time season tickets

• Fully working lifts at Faversham station

• More services to Victoria, the City and St Pancras

• An easier-to-use compensation scheme for delays

• Wifi and plugs for laptops and phones on all services

 

Progress 

1 February 2017: The Rail Delivery Group announces an overhaul of rail fares. Read my response here

9 December 2016: My survey of local rail users gets under way, gathering information on what constituents want for the future and their concerns about current services. Take the survey here

6 December 2016: I ask the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling how the proposed integration of Southeastern and Network Rail will help my constituents to get to work on time. Watch my question and the minister's response here

21 November 2016: With Kent MPs met with the Rail Minister and representatives from Southeaster and Network Rail to discuss performance of the franchise

16 November 2016: Met with David Statham, CEO of Southeastern, to pursue constituency problems with delayed trains

9 November 2016: I challenged Southeastern over delays. Read their response here

20 October 2016: 'Delay Repay 15' scheme announced, allowing passengers to claim compensation up to 25% of their fare when delayed for over 15 minutes. Read more here

October 2016: Received reply from Paul Maynard explaining the process and timetable for renewal of the south east rail franchise

September 2016: Wrote to the new Rail Minister Paul Maynard to follow up my meeting with Claire Perry

19 April 2016: Received a letter from Claire Perry acknowledging my submission to the consultation over the future of the Southeastern franchise and thanking me for my "detailed consideration and the pertinence of the points" raised. Read the letter here

4 April 2016: Received a letter from Claire Perry explaining that Southeastern is meeting its performance targets, despite the terrible service. I want to see much more robust performance standards when the franchise comes up for renewal in 2018. Read more here

18 March 2016: Wrote to Rail Minister Claire Perry setting out my thoughts about splitting the Southeastern franchise. Read more here

2 March 2016: Spoke in a House of Commons debate about the appalling service on Southeastern trains. Watch my contribution here

29 February 2016:  Held a further meeting with David Statham, CEO of SouthEastern trains, this time with other Kent MPs

24 February 2016: Held a meeting David Statham, CEO of Southeastern, to discuss the declining service. Read more here

29 January 2016:  Spoke in a debate about Southeastern trains to raise concerns with the Minister: You can watch my contribution here

20 January 2016: Met Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin to discuss a petition calling for the removal of the franchise from Southeastern, which attracted over 15,000 signatures. Read more here

19 January 2016: Spoke to BBC Radio Kent, BBC Southeast Today and the local paper to raise awareness of commuter anger at delays to services

18 December 2015:  Met with Bearsted Commuter Group

1 December 2015: Met Southeastern trains and Network Rail along with other Kent MPs

5 November 2015: Wrote to Southeastern about overcrowding on commuter services and seeking action 

4 November 2015: Wrote to David Statham, Managing Director of Southeastern, to advise him about future population growth around Maidstone and in Faversham 

30 October 2015: Wrote to Faversham Town Council to bring the council up-to-date and suggest coordination in tackling rail issues

20 October 2015: Received a follow-up letter from Southeastern accepting the lifts at Faversham station need to be replaced and agreeing to work with Network Rail to do that. Read the letter here

1 October 2015: Wrote to Network Rail asking for a meeting about the problems with the lifts at Faversham station and the nearby subway 

1 October 2015: Updated Bearsted Commuter Group on my meeting with Southeastern

25 September 2015: Met the Managing Director of Southeastern to raise a range of constituency rail service issues. I followed this up on 1st October with a letter to him 

17 July 2015: Heard from Bearsted Commuter Group about fare anomalies 

13 July 2015: Wrote to Bearsted Commuter Group to follow up correspondence with Claire Perry, the Rail Minister, about fares anomalies

 

Background

Many people in Faversham and Mid Kent rely on trains to get to work and for leisure; in term time, children use the train to get to and from school. Access by rail is important for local businesses and tourism. We need fast, frequent, reliable and good value train services.

Across the country, more people travel by train now than at any time since the 1920s. Choosing trains over other forms of transport has many benefits, but the increase in passengers puts strains on the system. The Conservative Manifesto pledged the biggest investment in rail since Victorian times and that pledge is being met nationally with £38 billion being spent on upgrades through to 2019.

My job is to make sure the constituency gets a fair share of the Government’s investment in rail, and to hold to account the organisations people rely on for rail services: Southeastern, the franchise holder through to June 2018, and Network Rail, which maintains track and infrastructure.

Southeastern runs services on three routes in Faversham and Mid Kent: the Maidstone East line serving Bearsted, Hollingbourne, Harrietsham and Lenham; the Ashford line serving Headcorn; the Chatham/North Kent line serving Faversham and Selling, this line includes a St Pancras service via the international HS1 route.

Since becoming the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent I have replied to hundreds of emails about local rail services, often from people frustrated by them. Overall, the main concerns are delays and overcrowding, poor communication by Southeastern and Network Rail about problems, reductions in services to the City, longer journey times following the introduction of HS1 and the level of fares. In Faversham there are also unreliable lifts and a grotty subway under the tracks. The lifts have not worked properly since soon after they were installed. Southeastern have acknowledged they need to be replaced.

Late trains are enormously disruptive for work and home life, and though we all understand there will be occasional crises which delay services, such events should be few and far between.

Work to renew the south east rail franchise is due to start soon, with a new franchise in June 2018. I see this as a major opportunity to see improved services for the constituency. The average journey from Bearsted to London took 1 hour 13 minutes in May 2015 and the best scheduled 'high speed' journey between Faversham and St Pancras was 1 hour 4 minutes. Meanwhile, it takes only 37 minutes to go from Ashford to St Pancras. Other areas are benefiting from faster services; I don't want to see Faversham and Mid Kent left behind. I encourage you to take my rail survey to make sure your voice is heard.

Also, peak time services from London to Bearsted were reduced from eight per hour to six between 2014 and 2015 and there were reductions in the number of trains running from Faversham to Victoria and the City when HS1 arrived. This means inconvenient journeys for some passengers and longer car journeys to better served stations, like Headcorn, for others.

In addition, it seems Bearsted passengers pay more per mile than passengers from other Kent stations. I’m supporting a long-running campaign for fairer fares from Bearsted, led by the Bearsted Commuter Group.

Though season tickets are expensive, they offer good value to commuters compared to purchasing individual tickets. But, buying a season ticket rarely adds-up for someone working part-time, forcing part-time workers to pay full price even though they may be less regular rail users. This can hit parents who are working part-time around childcare commitments, often with tight budgets.

Lastly, but very importantly, we must bear in mind the new housing planned for many parts of the constituency; it is vital that infrastructure keeps pace with development and that includes rail.

Attachments

Attachment Size
southeastern_train_letter.pdf 601.71 KB
claire_perry_letter_19_april.pdf 354.23 KB

News

Speak up for better rail services for Kent

Commuters have been seriously let down by local rail services over the past few years. Although there have been some improvements in performance, we are still a long way off reliable rush hour trains which are good value for money.

Overhaul of train tickets announced

I was pleased to see the announcement from the Rail Delivery Group that 'radical changes' to rail ticket prices will be introduced to offer passengers the best value fares.

Let's talk about trains: take my rail survey

I often hear from commuters about problems with train services, and I travel frequently by rail myself. I know services are not good enough. There are changes afoot in the next couple of years and I want us to benefit from them.

Train delays: Southeastern responds

There were terrible delays on trains between Faversham and London today, with some people waiting up to an hour and a half for over-crowded trains.

I contacted Southeastern CEO David Statham asking for an explanation. This is the reply I received:

Dear Helen

My plan for Southeastern

I have been asked ‘what’s the plan’ on Southeastern trains, as passengers continue to experience delayed and cancelled trains

I won't let commuters be railroaded

Performance on Southeastern trains is woeful. So I welcome proposals to split the franchise, providing it improves service for passengers.

WATCH Southeastern trains debate

VIDEO: I spoke in a House of Commons debate about Southeastern, and called on the Government, Network Rail and Southeastern to take action.