Transport secretary defends consultation as 13,000 passengers ‘incandescent with rage’ plead not to slash rail services from Kent to central London
PUBLISHED: 11:46 30 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:51 30 March 2017
A petition has been launched against the proposals to cut some Southeastern services to Charing Cross and London Victoria
The transport secretary has defended his controversial rail consultation in which he proposes some services from Kent to central London will be slashed.
Chris Grayling was told by Labour MP Clive Efford in the House of Commons that passengers in Kent and south east London were “incandescent with rage” over the proposals set out in a consultation for the new south eastern franchise.
The consultation was launched earlier this month while inviting bids for the next franchise holder to begin in December 2018.
So far, more than 13,000 people have signed a petition urging the government not to cut Southeastern services to Charing Cross and London Victoria, saying the plans would make the lives of passengers “a misery”.
However, Mr Grayling objected to the criticism, insisting the Department for Transport’s document was only proposing suggestions, that would be re-evaluated following feedback from passengers and the wider public.
“This is a consultation, we haven’t taken any decisions, we haven’t even got an intent,” he said.
“This is about asking people: ‘there are ways of running this railway that could potentially make it more reliable, what do you think?’
“If the answer is ‘we don’t want you to do that’, we will listen.
“My focus is for local passengers and local railways to deliver more capacity, the best possible reliability and in particular longer trains.
“All of those things are very firmly on our agenda.”
The consultation is already under-fire as the DfT was foced to admit some housing figures in the document were “too low” in a letter to Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Teresa Pearce.
The proposals have also been criticised by local members of his own party, with Dartford MP Gareth Johnson describing them as “unacceptable”.
Responding to a question from Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately this morning, Mr Grayling added: “Last year I set out a bold vision for a railway that puts passengers at the heart of everything it does.
“We’ve already heard today about our plans to deliver more capacity for commuters on Southeastern.
“I regard longer trains on the south eastern network as a priority for this government and an absolute priority for the new franchise.”
The proposals in the consultation document reads: “There would be a limit to the improvements that could be made to the timetable without also reducing the number of central London stations served from certain locations at particular times.
“An example might be for all Metro services on the north Kent (between Dartford and Charlton), Greenwich and Bexleyheath lines to terminate at Cannon Street only.
“We believe that the simplicity of a regular service to a single London terminal throughout the day would benefit both regular and occasional passengers.”
The government has to issue a response to signatures that receive more than 10,000 signatures.
This response is expected by the end of the week.