Sunday, 2 December 2012

Southeastern announce cash cow Deal

The success of high-speed services for DEAL has resulted in Southeastern turning the service into a cash cow after an inflation busting fare increase has been announced. From January 2013 DEAL and Sandwich commuter season tickets will go up by 6.46%, the highest increase in the country.

Ironically news of the increase came on the very day Kent County Council launched their "Grow For It in East Kent" campaign. A campaign which builds on the Pfizer Task Force recommendation to introduce high-speed services to DEAL and Sandwich and promote the new links as great destinations for business and tourism.

As a regular commuter on the service myself I have witnessed the huge increase of commuters from DEAL which has now resulted in the introduction of the first commercially operated services. 

Southeastern shareholders must be rubbing their hands with glee as simply stopping trains at a station is creating such a great cash cow for them. Ironically none of the cash appears to be reinvested locally. We still have a broken station clock, unreadable station sign, line restrictions and semaphore signalling which causes constant delays.

The real travesty is that the Government, Kent County Council and our MP Charlie Elphicke appear oblivious to the damage this increase will cause to job opportunities and tourism. The very things they say they are committed to.

Equally, Southeastern shareholders may find they achieve a quick windfall but eventually they will simply price people off the service.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

NEW improved December HS timetable for DEAL

Two new Southeastern high-speed services launch in the new timetable which starts 9th December 2012:

(07:26 Deal to St Pancras) 
(16:40 St Pancras to Deal)

Deal to St Pancras (weekdays)

St Pancras to Deal (weekdays)

A full Southeastern HS timetable starting 9th December can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

December Timetable Changes - DEAL & Sandwich receive additional HS services

DEAL and Sandwich will receive an additional service to St Pancras in the morning and from St Pancras in the evening.

0742 Dover to St Pancras will start back from Sandwich at 0720 and also call at DEAL (0726). As result of passenger requests, this provides for a later arrival into St Pancras for Sandwich and DEAL passengers at 0849.

1642 St Pancras to Margate will start at 1640 and divide at Ashford. The front 6 coaches will form an additional train to Sandwich (arr 1813) calling at Folkestone West (arr 1735), Folkestone Central (arr 1738), Dover Priory (arr 1749), and DEAL (arr 1806). The rear 6 coaches will continue as now to Margate. This provides an earlier return service from St Pancras to Sandwich and DEAL and also an additional through service from St Pancras to Folkestone & Dover at the start of the evening peak.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

KCC responds to DfT rail franchise consultation with all-day High Speed service requirement for DEAL

Kent County Council has responded to the Department for Transport's rail franchise consultations. The two consultation responses - for the South Eastern and for the Combined Thameslink franchises - were approved by Bryan Sweetland, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways & Waste. 

Q7 The Council, in response to representations from the local Rail User Group and other stakeholders, now proposes that the new franchise specification should include a requirement for this High Speed service to operate all day. This would undoubtedly support the regional economic growth so urgently needed in this part of Kent, where unemployment is among the highest level in the county. The provision of an all-day High Speed service between London St Pancras, Folkestone, Dover, Deal and Sandwich should encourage access to London employment and education opportunities for residents from East Kent, and also the location by businesses in this part of Kent bringing new local employment opportunities. 

This is great news but there is a sting in the tail! KCC also mention their aspiration for off peak High Speed services to be increased from one train per hour to two trains per hour but only for Folkestone West, Folkestone Central and Dover Priory. Considering they mention their surprise at the success of the exisiting passenger numbers using High Speed from Deal and Sandwich this does seem very short sighted. 

Full documentation is available here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

We just want a fair commute and people to visit our town

The adage goes "you can't win the Dover constituency if you don't live in DEAL", amazingly the constituency is officially just called Dover even though the population trend would surmise it should be called DEAL and Dover.

One of the key fundamentals to a thriving town is its railway services and this is even more prevalent in a town like DEAL which has a very low job to working population ratio and an aspiring tourism industry. Charlie Elphicke Conservative MP for DEAL and Dover acknowledges this and has supported the campaign for a full highspeed rail service and has ambitions to make DEAL a high-speed town, but there may be trouble ahead.

The Southeastern franchise is up for renewal and Kent County Council and Trains4Deal want any new franchise which will start in 2014 to have a full highspeed rail service implemented for DEAL. However it is unclear whether Dover District Council support this. Their latest strategic transport priorities appear to only back the construction of an unwanted multi-storey car park at Dover Priory, presumably to force the district to drive into Dover and boost dwindling passenger numbers at Dover Priory. Many people in DEAL and Dover are increasingly questioning if Dover District Council led by Paul Watkins have the full confidence of the districts population.

Of course you could have the best rail service in the country, but if commuters can't afford to travel on it to work or if tourists can't afford to travel on it to boost tourism and the local economy it ceases to be an asset.

The government plan to raise rail fares from January next year by at least 6.2% and potentially as high as 11% on some routes. At a time when families are struggling to stay financially afloat this is pure madness. If anyone tries to fool you with the word 'investment' I suggest you take a look at the dilapidated station sign at DEAL which can no longer be read, the station clock which displays strange numbers or take a trip on the notorious mainline service. Some Kent Conservative MP's have spoken out strongly at the planned increases, surprisingly Charlie Elphicke has not.

If Labour had not have awarded Southeastern the franchise in the first place maybe some of these problems wouldn't exist. Certainly the blame for a lack of highspeed services to DEAL is entirely the last Labour Governments fault.

Clair Hawkins is the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for DEAL & Dover and has written to the Dover Express about unfair rail rises, a local girl with a lot of ambition is my initial impression of her.

The next general election will be a straight fight between the Conservatives and Labour. The 'must' win seat in the South East will be DEAL & Dover and rail services will be one of voters top issues.

Update 30th August 2012

Charlie Elphicke and Clair Hawkins have both reponded to this blog via twitter:

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

NEW expanded Southeastern highspeed (HS1) timetable for DEAL

Within the next few weeks DEAL and Sandwich will be served by a new late night service departing London St Pancras at 23:12 and arriving at DEAL at 00:35 enabling people to enjoy a night out in the city before returning direct to East Kent.

December will see the launch of an additional new morning service departing DEAL at 07:26 and arriving into London St Pancras at 08.49 enabling commuters the option of a longer morning lie in. Both services will be operated 'commercially' outside the existing KCC funded agreement and is in response to the huge success of the original services and the continued increase in passenger demand.

This represents another big milestone to a full highspeed service and promotion of DEAL as one of the HS1 premier coastal destinations.

HS1 DEAL Mon-Fri

Thursday, 5 July 2012

DEAL & Sandwich aim Javelin at jobs target

The District won the county gold medal last month as official figures reveal it achieved the largest decrease in unemployment.

The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance (JSA) in the district fell by almost 80 from April to May, Mill Hill in DEAL saw the greatest fall of JSA claimants with 21 people back in work.

However Dover District still has a higher unemployment rate than the national average, with 4.2 per cent of the district's population out of work compared to around three per cent in the UK as a whole.

This latest cautiously optimistic news follows the recent announcements from Southeastern that it will increase the number of highspeed trains serving DEAL and Sandwich with an additional morning service stopping at DEAL at 07.26 (arriving at St Pancras 08.49) and a late night service from St Pancras (departing 23.12). These two additional trains will run as commercial services outside the existing Kent County Council subsidy agreement to cope with the increasing passenger demand from DEAL.


Buying a season ticket will reduce the cost of travel, an annual season ticket will give you the best saving followed by monthly then weekly. If you also require the use of the underground this can be included and you have the option of including travel within zones or for the best price to a specific underground station only.

National rail season ticket calculator

You may find that your employer pays for your season ticket or they will loan you the money for your season ticket and allow it to be paid back via salary sacrifice.

St Pancras International is set at the heart of Central London with more underground connections than any other London station.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Fair DEAL for South Eastern Franchise Consultation

Dover District Council Scrutiny and Regeneration Committee 5th March 2010

In principle, would Southeastern support an amendment to its franchise agreement to introduce a stop in Deal, for either all or a limited number of high-speed services, if it were financially viable?

The Committee was informed that Southeastern would not support such an amendment. The terms and conditions of a rail franchise were set by the Department for Transport and stipulated the level of service the Government wished to see on the network.

BBC RADIO KENT Live @ DEAL station 20th June 2012 - Ian Kilberry, Trains4Deal and Vince Lucas, service delivery director for Southeastern

Since the initial introduction of high-speed services the Department of Transport and Southeastern mangement have been responsible for the economic cleansing of East Kent. After intense political pressure and people power on the 5th September 2011 a limited high-speed service was introduced for Deal and Sandwich.

Kent County Council have acknowledged all day high-speed services are required for Deal and Sandwich and it is now a key requirement of their Rail Action Plan.

Today the Department of Transport launched its consultation seeking passenger views on the new South Eastern rail franchise, which is due to begin in April 2014.

We must ensure that the Department for Transport understand the need for all day high-speed services and improved mainline services for Deal are also one of their key priorities.

I encourage you to reply to their consultation.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Orient Express visit to Kent's coastal jewel in the crown

On Saturday 19th May 2012 the first of four Orient Express excursions planned for this year to Deal was welcomed by a large crowd of Dealites and welcoming ambassadors including representatives from The Just Reproach, The Bohemian and Platform 1 Cafe.

The excursion was a sell out with two hundred passengers alighting at Deal station and exploring our great town. Once again BBC Radio Kent were live at Deal station and below you can listen to Nick Stevens from Platform 1 Cafe give an excellent interview championing Deal.

The introduction of peak highspeed train services to Deal has been a huge boost to the town, a catalyst for aspirations and investment. Kent County Council has committed to build a new youth centre, stagecoach have increased bus services, the Quarterdeck replacement has been agreed, Deal Business Park is nearing completion, fibre optic broadband is being rolled out and the seafront shared space project is gathering impetus. Furthermore we have seen some great new businesses start-up such as The Just Reproach and Platform 1 Cafe.

This is only the start as we still require a full highspeed service, more local jobs, better policing. I suspect we will always be lacking something because this town is a progressive town.

But the reason for all of the above improvements are down to one thing and that one thing is what defines Deal above all other towns, our community. Groups like Trains4Deal, Deal With It, North Deal Community Partnership and businesses like Platform 1 Deal are championing our town. I know there are many other groups and individuals who are working just as tirelessly.

The talk from afar is that the town is on the up! Long may it continue.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Highspeed DEAL can become a Hi-Tech hub

Recently Charlie Elphicke MP wrote a very good article about his ambition to make DEAL a high-speed town with better communication links and high tech jobs to compliment the highspeed rail service. Recently you may have noticed some new green boxes appearing on street corners! These are high-speed broadband cabinets and BT are currently rolling out FTTC (fibre optic broadband to the cabinet) which puts DEAL in the forefront of next gen technology.

Quite rightly Charlie wrote about the huge benefit that the Hadlow project would bring to DEAL and desperately needed well paid high tech jobs. The other day fellow DEAL and HS1 patron @horacebat tweeted me a great idea about having a remote office centre with video conference, fast broadband etc in DEAL where commuters could hot desk from. This then got me thinking... I bet like myself a lot of commuters from DEAL are working in tech centric jobs and would find a remote office centre useful so they can sometimes work locally. But why stop at that... local businesses and start-ups would also probably find this an invaluable service.

All of sudden you have got local start-ups and businesses networking with London IT professionals helping them prosper and grow and with a bit of luck a high tech hub emerges in DEAL, an East Kent satellite of London's Silicone Tech City. I am convinced we already have a wealth of IT innovators living in DEAL and that will only increase as our high performing academy school and the technology school in SANDWICH continue to thrive.

I would love to get some views on this so please comment if you have an opinion, idea or experience of hot desking.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

December 2012 Southeastern timetable consultation begins

As far as I can tell the main change that would affect Deal and Sandwich is the proposed removal of the 05:56 service from Deal, this would be replaced by a 07:26 service which arrives at St Pancras at 08:49.

The 06:56 service would no longer make an attachment at Ashford but would additionally stop at Ebbsfleet. Journey times seem to have crept up from 82 minutes to 85 minutes which seems ridiculous as so much time is wasted hanging around Dover Priory. In my opinion HS services from Deal to St Pancras could easily be brought down to under 80 minutes.

The 18:10 St Pancras to Margate & Dover will run as a 12 car to Margate, cutting journey times from St Pancras to Canterbury to 55 minutes and will no longer serve Folkestone or Dover however the 18:18 St Pancras to Ebbsfleet is extended to Dover.

Once again there is no timetable provision for weekend HS services to Deal or Sandwich and the majority of these overall timetable changes seem geared to give Canterbury, Margate & Ramsgate quicker and more frequent services.

You can view the draft timetables using the following link and there is also a link on that page to submit your comments.

December 2012 Southeastern timetable consultation begins

Thursday, 26 April 2012

New late night highspeed service to Deal

At last nights 4th Kent Rail Summit it was announced that from September there will be a new late night highspeed service to Deal. The extra extended late night highspeed Southeastern service to Deal, Sandwich and Ramsgate will leave London St Pancras International at 23.12.

The extended, late night highspeed service from London St Pancras to Deal, will be welcomed by those working late or enjoying a night out in London.

Bryan Sweetland, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Waste, who chaired the 4th Kent Rail Summit, at County Hall, Maidstone, said:

"The launch of late night high speed services to East Kent is great news for the area, providing a further boost to business. It will significantly benefit tourism, building on the tremendous success of the Turner Centre and resulting increase in visitor numbers."

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Demand secures permanent highspeed services to Deal & Sandwich

Kent County Council has confirmed it will continue subsidising Southeastern highspeed services to Deal & Sandwich for the next two years until the current franchise expires in 2014, then a new franchise should secure an all day service. The number of commuters using the service has soared and overall trips to and from Deal have increased 30% since September when the service was introduced.

KCC cabinet member for transport Cllr Bryan Sweetland said the number of season ticket holders using the high speed link in the East Kent towns had grown dramatically and this was expected to increase even more. He said “We’ve seen passenger numbers rise from a dozen to over 100 and that’s going to grow to a couple of hundred, the initial driver for us to subsidise the service was to support the regeneration in light of the Pfizer withdrawal. Confidence is growing and we took the decision to continue. I’ve been working with campaign group Trains4Deal and there are few things we need to tweak with the service.”

The subsidy will be reduced from last year due to the increase in season ticket holders using the daily fast link, which has three trains in the morning and two returning from St Pancras in the evening.

On Thursday 19th April BBC Radio Kent were live at "Platform 1" Deal station’s brand new café speaking about the importance of the service for Deal and how more highspeed trains are now required during the day. A clip from the show can be listened to below.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Deal train station signage

I have had communication from Southeastern regarding Deal train station signage which they maintain. They agree it is in a very poor state and have informed me that I should notice an improvement soon.

Let's hope so as it does look a real eyesore!


So far nothing has been done, so here is the latest communication received from Southeastern on 1st June 2012:

I am sorry to hear you are very unhappy with the state of the station sign at Deal.

We do try to ensure that our stations are maintained regularly. However, it is clear from your comments that more needs to be done to address the issue you have raised, and I am sorry that we have failed to address the problem you discovered.

I have brought your comments to the attention of the Station Manager, Paul Harris. Mr Harris will ensure that this issue is addressed as promptly as possible.

Once again, please accept my apologies for the poor state of the station sign at Deal station. I hope that you will notice an improvement soon.

Yours sincerely

Pauline Owen

Customer Relations Officer

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Thanet fast-tracked over Dover District

On the 31st October 2011 the Government announced that East Kent (*Dover District, Thanet, Shepway and Canterbury) had been awarded a £40million Regional Growth Fund to drive new jobs and business growth in the wake of the Pfizer closure.

* You can now sign an e-petiton to change the name of Dover District.

The Task Force set up to mitigate Pfizer’s proposed exit from Sandwich met for the last time on 6th March 2012 and presented their last report.

The report states that the Regional Growth Fund has subsequently had £5million removed from it and now stands at £35million. The removed sum of £5million has been matched with a further £5million from Network Rail and will secure line speed enhancements from Ashford International to Ramsgate via Canterbury West to bring journey times to Thanet down to 60mins. This comes on top of the recent new signalling technology which has also been installed along this railway line.

This is good news for Thanet and will lay the foundations for a possible new Manston Parkway station.

However this will do nothing to improve transport links to Discovery Park (the Enterprise Zone which now encapsulates the Pfizer site). The Kent coast(Ashford) line between Folkestone and Ramsgate via Deal/Sandwich also requires urgent upgrading. This line still has semaphore signalling and line speed restrictions (the painfully slow speed restrictions between Folkestone and Dover Priory are legendary).

If we want East Kent Plc to become a reality then the Kent Coast line will also require upgrading and this needs to be done sooner rather than later. I am surprised this was not given priority considering improving rail services to Sandwich was identified as having a significant impact on the potential for Discovery Park in the 30 day report.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Platform 1 - new café for Deal station

Deal Station's new café "Platform 1" will open for business tomorrow 19th March 2012 from 05.30am.

Passenger numbers using the new Southeastern highspeed service connecting Deal to London St Pancras have significantly increased over recent months and this will be welcome news for early morning commuters and off peak passengers.
Deal station is now an excellent choice for commuters with the possibility of more HS1 services on the way, easy parking, plenty of empty seats when you board a train and a brand new café.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

December 2012 timetable earmarked for more highspeed services to Deal & Sandwich

This morning at London St Pancras senior Southeastern managers were available to talk to their customers, they call it 'Meet the Manager'. I took the opportunity to talk to them about the new highspeed train service for Deal and Sandwich.

Firstly I wanted to know if they agreed with me that the service had been a success?

They agreed it had already exceeded their expectations. Furthermore they agreed there was evidence to suggest there is significant potential for increasing passenger numbers from tourism to Deal and Sandwich via highspeed services. A remarkable turnaround from a year ago when the idea of stopping highspeed trains at Deal was dismissed by Southeastern.

Obviously this lead me to ask will you increase highspeed services for Deal and Sandwich?

The offical stance is that there will be an internal review of all highspeed services after the Olympics and if possible they will increase the number of highspeed services to Deal and Sandwich in the December 2012 timetable. Again another big change of attitude but remember the new 2014 Integrated Kent Franchise is approaching fast and all day services to Deal and Sandwich is a key priority.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Smugglers, ghost ships and Dickensian shopping - winter weekend breaks in Deal, Kent

During the winter nights whilst the stars are shining bright why not spend an inspirational weekend in Deal on the East Kent coast. With cosy warm traditional pubs overlooking glorious views across the English Channel and the treacherous Goodwin Sands, this once notorious smugglers paradise is rich in history and mystery.

The Goodwin Sands lying six miles of the coast of Deal have been responsible for over 1000 recorded shipwrecks. Some of the most famous ghost ships sail the waters which has caused countless tales of strange sights, lights and sounds from the sea mist.

Travel on Britain's first highspeed train service direct to Deal from London St Pancras on Friday night (Depart 17.40pm or 18.40pm) and return back in the capital early Monday morning (Depart from Deal 05.56am, 06.24am or 06.56am).

Stay in a world class B&B like Number One (Travellers Choice 2011 Top 10 B&B in the world), The Royal Hotel which was frequently visited by Lord Nelson or the renowned Dunkerleys Restaurant & Hotel.

Sample the delights of The Black Douglas Coffee House (Telegraph Best British Cafe with view), Deal Beach Parlour, the unique Dining Club, Middle Street Fish Bar (The Times Third best fish & chip shop in Britain), 81 Beach Street or The Court Yard Oyster Bar and Restaurant. Fancy a traditional pint? The Berry (CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year 2011), The Kings Head (10th Best seaside Pub in England) or the extremely popular The Bohemian and the new The Just Reproach (Micro Pub).

Browse the quaint boutiques and shops along Dickensian Deal High Street (Greencades, The Sugar Boy, Borough Wines, Poppy Belle) to list a few, you may find a real treasure item in one of the antique shops or find that perfect gift.

Deal Castle one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England is now open weekends throughout the winter months and Tides modern indoor swimming pool with wave machine plus brand new tennis centre offer great leisure activities.

The recently refurbished, Astor Community Theatre provides a great source of  live music, theatre, exhibitions and films.

Once a naval stronghold. today the seaside town of Deal has a burgeoning? café scene. The Evening Standard 7th September 2011

Map of Deal
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