Southeastern today announced the start of a new High Speed service from Maidstone to St Pancras International via Strood on a trial basis.
The trial service will commence on 23 May and comes as a result of changes on the North Kent line to improve punctuality of existing services.
Vince Lucas, service delivery director said, “We’re pleased to be able to introduce this new service from Maidstone West to London. The new service will provide the people of Maidstone with an alternative way of getting into London each morning. It will also help improve the reliability and punctuality of services along the North Kent and Sidcup lines into London by reducing the number of trains running through the Rochester area, as experience has shown this is vulnerable to congestion and delays.”
The new service will consist of three departures from Maidstone West in the morning at 06.56, 07.26 and 07.56. The return journeys will depart St Pancras International at 17.14, 17.44 and 18.14. The new services will call at Strood, Gravesend, Stratford International and St Pancras International with journey times of approximately 50 minutes.
There will also be one service in the morning departing St Pancras International at 06.25 to Maidstone West. In the evening there is one service departing at 19.13 from Maidstone West to St Pancras International. Passengers will continue to be able to travel twice an hour from Maidstone West to St Pancras International in 59 minutes changing at Strood.
To introduce this new service, existing services to and from Rochester and Faversham will be diverted. To ensure that Rochester receives the same number of trains, the current Broadstairs services* will call additionally at Rochester. These services will be increased to 12 carriages to accommodate the additional passengers.
Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, said, “This is welcome news for Maidstone commuters. My fellow Kent MPs and I have made considerable efforts to gain something positive from Southeastern and they have clearly acknowledged more needs to be done to support our commuters. Whilst I understand this is still not the return of the much missed city service and that St Pancras will not be the ideal destination for many, this is a good start.”
Bryan Sweetland, Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways & Waste at Kent County Council, said, “ Kent County Council strongly supports this initiative by Southeastern. Commuters from Maidstone have suffered from a worse rail service since December 2009, and the delivery of this peak period High Speed service direct to Stratford and St Pancras will be warmly welcomed. KCC will continue to argue the case for an all day High Speed service in the new franchise which is due to be awarded in 2014”.
Dave Ward, Network Rail’s route director for Kent said: “Passengers in Maidstone rely on rail for over 2.2 million journeys every year. The introduction of this trial High Speed service will increase capacity and allow passengers in Maidstone to travel to a wider number of destinations, as well as helping us run a more reliable service.”
“We’d like to also thank the local MPs, Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council for their support in helping us introduce this new service. It will initially be a trial and will be reviewed in time for the December 2011 timetable change,” Vince Lucas concluded.