High speed train service 'no use at all' for East Kent

A high-speed rail service to London is of "no use to those travelling from the whole of East Kent," says a Kent MP.

Roger Gale, Conservative MP for Thanet North, said the service only benefits those living in Ashford and working near St Pancras.

Journey times have even increased since the introduction of the high speed services in 2009, say some commuters.

A Southeastern spokesman said more trains on the same tracks meant services could be slower.

The fast service links Ashford to St Pancras in 35 minutes, on the new dedicated High Speed 1 track, whereas the high-speed trains on the north Kent line use the track also used by standard services.

Mr Gale said: "The classic services that run into central London are slower as a result of High Speed 1 because they've cleared a path for the high-speed train.

"I think the high-speed service is very good for a very few people living in Ashford and wanting to work in or around St Pancras, not much use to anybody living in Ashford and wanting to work anywhere other than St Pancras, and no use at all to those travelling from the whole of East Kent particularly along the Kent coastline.

"If you take the high-speed train from East Kent it becomes a lot more expensive.

"You have to take an underground train back to where you actually want to be and you lose all the time you've made up. Where is the benefit in that?

"The trains on what is known as the 'classic service' are slower than they were in 1927."

John Nicholson, who commutes from Herne Bay to Cannon Street on the "classic service", said things have got worse.

"I have to pay nearly £4,000 for the privilege of a journey that now takes 20 minutes longer than it used to," he said.

'Growing demand'

According to Southeastern, the high-speed service misses out some stations, so the standard trains have to stop at all the stations and so take longer.

Spokesman Vince Lucas said: "Some of the off-peak trains stop at more stations, because we changed the stopping patterns.

"On the peak trains, travelling to the city, some are a bit faster and some are a bit slower than in 2008."

He said the growing demand for rail travel had meant some services were slower.

"When you put more trains on a network where the infrastructure is staying the same, they are going to take a bit longer."

Inside Out South East was first broadcast on Monday, 5 December on BBC One.

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