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Government urged to ‘commit’ to future of small train stations by Kent County Council chiefs

PUBLISHED: 16:06 15 May 2017

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Thousands of campaigners have opposed proposals suggesting some trains would no longer stop at Pluckley, Headcorn, Staplehurst, Marden and Paddock Wood

The government is being urged to “commit” to the future of train services to smaller stations by transport chiefs at Kent County Council.

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on how to shape rail services in the county after 2018, and has caused a stir with some of its suggestions, including plans for the line between Ashford and Tonbridge.

Under the proposals, some trains on that line would no longer stop at stations like Pluckley, Headcorn, Staplehurst, Marden, and Paddock Wood, in a bid to speed up journey times.

Campaigners at Save Kent Trains have previously warned such plans would be “disastrous” for local communities and could potentially lead to the closure of the stations altogether.

A petition against the proposals was launched and received more than 10,000 signatures before being closed earlier this month as parliament dissolved ahead of the general election.

The document was backed by parliamentary candidates from a range of parties as well as the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Now KCC has also announced its opposition to the plans in an official response to the government’s consultation on the future of the south eastern rail franchise, which closes next week.

“The Ashford to London via Tonbridge service would need to retain its current stopping pattern to reflect the growth in demand at intermediate stations on this route,” a council spokesperson said.

“There is considerable housing development underway or planned at Paddock Wood, Marden, Staplehurst, Headcorn and Pluckley, which will require the continuation of the present service levels in both peak and off-peak periods.

“Therefore the new franchise should commit to these service levels without any change in either the frequency or the stopping pattern on this section of route.

“As Ashford and most east Kent stations already have a High Speed service, there is in any event less imperative to speed up this mainline route.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has had to defend the controversial consultation on a number of occasions, insisting the proposals are merely suggestions and that the government will listen closely to all feedback provided.

The consultation closes on May 23 and is available to view here.

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