Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says the delayed Thameslink fast service from Maidstone East “remains on track” in a letter to Michael today.
The fresh assurances follow the pair’s meeting last week, in which Michael demanded the Transport Secretary’s commitment to delivering the new Thameslink fast service in full after fresh fears that the future express service would be delayed “indefinitely”.
Click here to read Grayling’s letter to Sir Michael
Reacting to the letter, Michael said: “Last week, the Transport Secretary tried to reassure me that the new service will be delivered. Now, its deliverability merely remains ‘on track’. Kent commuters, businesses and families need more certainty.”
Michael has today (10) called for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to rethink the scheduled phasing of its new Thameslink fast service.
Writing to Chief Executive, Charles Horton, the Sevenoaks MP urged GTR to consider starting the postponed fast service as originally promised, but with one train per hour rather than the twice-hourly service originally planned. The alternative proposal aims to ensure that families and businesses in the northern parts of his constituency still benefit from services that would help local regeneration.
Michael indicated it was possible to meet the capacity problem by protecting existing services and pursuing a more balanced phasing in of new services.
He said: “It is vital that the result of this delay avoids punishing businesses and commuters in my constituency who have anticipated the introduction of this new service now for over four years.”
Michael has pressed the government for answers following news that the new Thameslink fast service from Maidstone East, Otford and Swanley to London due to start from December 2018 has now been postponed until at least December 2019.
The local MP submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions to the Rail Minister about the matter. The Rail Minister answered the questions last week, writing:
“Learning lessons from previous major changes and to enable the industry to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from too much change on the network at any one time, the Secretary of State for Transport asked Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to propose options to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from the introduction of the Thameslink timetable and operational changes. GTR’s proposal increases the number of services through central London more gradually than had been planned, beginning in May 2018 and ending in December 2019.
The changes have been selected as the best option to benefit the most passengers across the wider south east network. The new Thameslink services from Maidstone East will now be delivered in December 2019.”
Michael has also written to the Transport Secretary for an explanation, demanding he provide reasons for not having consulted on proposals before having taken the decision.
Before writing to the Transport Secretary, Michael was informed by GTR that the decision had been taken by the Department for Transport.
Michael said: “This is not good enough. We need confirmation that operators will still achieve full capacity on this route, as planned, in 2018. I await the Transport Secretary’s explanation for not having consulted with stakeholders before taking this decision.”