Rail firms told to deliver longer and faster trains

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    Scheduling changes would also see at least one of these fast services stopping at Tunbridge Wells beforehand. The Department for Transport [DfT] has listed a number of other requirements, including measures to find room for an extra 40,000 passengers a day.

    Others include scrapping First Class and introducing longer trains to boost capacity, as well as introducing fast Wi-Fi and allowing Delay Repay compensation after holdups
    of 15 minutes or more. Smart ticketing systems could also be introduced along the `
    network.

    Current operator Go-Ahead/Kelios (which manages the Southeastern brand), is battling rival bids from Stagecoach and Abellio/Mitsui for the contract. Bidders have until March 2018 to make submissions. The winner is expected to be announced in autumn 2018, with the new franchise scheduled to commence in April 2019, lasting for eight years.
    John Reynolds, spokesman for the pressure group Tonbridge Line Commuters [TLC] said: “We do not have a favoured bidder, rather we are determined to see the best service.”

    Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, who has criticised Southeastern in the past, praised the department for ‘listening to concerns’.

    “I very much welcome that the next operator will be held to a higher standard, and will be expected to deliver a service that’s more in line with what passengers deserve,” he said.

    TLC, however, raised concerns that trains could stop more frequently at Orpington on the journey to and from the capital, which Mr Reynolds said would be a ‘disaster’ leading to overcrowding. The pressure group has put forward their own requests to each bidder, which include seating plans inside trains from ‘uncomfortable’ groups of three seats to two-by-two arrangements.

    ENGINEERING works on the West Kent mainline and Redhill line on Saturday, December 23 will impact Christmas shoppers travelling to London.

    As part of ten days of works to transform London Bridge over the festive season, at least one part of the journey to the capital will be completed by bus link. To find full details of the disruption, visit www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk

    Concern for reduced Redhill line

    PLANS to downgrade the Tonbridge to Redhill train line to a shuttle service have concerned one pressure group. Tonbridge Line Commuters [TLC] are protesting proposals by Govia/Thameslink (operators of Southern rail) which would see travellers along the line stripped of a direct link to London. The timetable change, set to be introduced from May next year, would follow previous downgrades to the line – which serves Leigh, Penshurst and Edenbridge, among other stops. Commuters have already seen the service reduced to one train per hour in each direction, while a direct connection to Gatwick Airport has also been lost.

    John Reynolds, Chairman of TLC, said: “We don’t want this to be reduced to just a shuttle
    service. If it was, the least they could do is make it half-hourly. “Quite a few Tonbridge residents travel to places like Croydon, and they will now have to change trains.”
    A spokesman from Govia/Thameslink said the change is to free-up more trains to link Reigate to London, which is a route used by more commuters.

    He added that along the Redhill line a half-hourly service could be reintroduced around school time. “We do appreciate this will be less convenient than direct services, but the
    greater frequency of services from Redhill will be of benefit to passengers using the Tonbridge line. “We are working to improve connections at Redhill and Tonbridge to make sure the timetable fits local journey needs, such as school times, as closely as possible.”