Monday, 7 October 2013

Leader of KCC response on future of High Speed (HS) rail services to Deal & Sandwich

The present position in respect of HS to Deal and Sandwich is as follows:

Kent County Council's (KCC) financial support for this service ends - as it was always planned to  – on 31 March 2014, by which date the Council will have invested £430,000 in revenue support.  KCC has already urged the Department for Transport (DfT) to include at least this peak period service in the Direct Award specification which will determine the operation of the franchise between November 2014 and June 2018. We have also requested confirmation that Southeastern Railway Ltd (SER), if this were specified for the Direct Award by the DfT, to continue to operate this service, without any further revenue support from this Council, for the 28-week extension period of their existing franchise between April and November 2014.

KCC also supports in principle the aspiration of Trains4Deal for an extension of the HS service to operate off-peak and weekends. Any extension of the operating period, at least during the day on Monday to Friday, would have KCC’s strong support, and we shall urge the DfT to include at least a Monday to Friday off-peak service within the specification for the Direct Award.

Just to be clear about one point though: it is not that KCC has withdrawn the funding, but rather that the period of the current franchise has been extended, as a result of the DfT's revised franchise timetable.

So to summarise the present position: the most constructive way forward now would be for the DfT to agree to include these valuable HS services within the service specification of the Direct Award from November 2014, and then for SER to operate them without additional revenue support (and also without any requirement to forward additional revenue receipts to the DfT) between April and November 2014. That would ensure the continuation of these services right up to the end of the Direct Award in June 2018.

KCC is very well aware that many work/life choices have been made by residents of the Deal and Sandwich area predicated on the existence of these HS services. KCC will therefore continue to influence both the DfT and SER in the ways I have outlined above, until at least the existing peak period service - and preferably an enhanced off-peak service - is secured right up to June 2018.

That would be good news for East Kent - not just for the towns of Deal and Sandwich but especially for the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone and the essential economic growth which it supports. We shall not give up on this goal until we know that these vital HS services to Deal and Sandwich are secured.

I am monitoring development very closely alongside the MP for Dover and Deal, Charlie Elphicke. We are working hard in finding a long term solution.

Thank you again for writing to me about this important matter for East Kent.

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Carter
Leader of Kent County Council

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

What's the DEAL Charlie Elphicke?

I had envisaged this post would be composed of many detailed paragraphs but I am going to try and use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

The previous Labour Government decided not to include DEAL in the HS1 rail service which they launched in December 2009, furthermore they reduced the existing classic service and increased journey times.

Good rail links are vital to DEAL.

Prompted by the Pfizer closure at Sandwich, Kent County Council (KCC) put their money where their mouth was and funded a peak high-speed (HS) service for DEAL & Sandwich until the expiry of the existing Southeastern franchise agreement in March 2014. The service has been a huge success and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Furthermore KCC agreed to promote all-day HS services for DEAL & Sandwich as their top priority additional requirement for the new franchise specification.

So what's gone wrong?

The coalition government had a "franchise fiasco" at the Department for Transport (DfT) which has resulted in delaying new rail franchises and subsequently potentially means DEAL & Sandwich will have no HS services from March 2014.

Whose fault is it?

It is the fault of the Government and the DfT and as local representatives of the Government; ultimately the blame must lie with Charlie Elphicke MP (Dover & Deal) and Laura Sandys MP (Thanet South).

Regardless of the existing 'franchise' in 2011 Helen Grant MP (Maidstone and the Weald) secured HS services to Maidstone West which as far as I am aware is not under threat from March 2014.

Charlie Elphicke has spent a considerable amount of his political time on securing the 'Peoples Port' of Dover and a new Buckland Hospital. But in DEAL we have lost a high school, our hospital and a children’s centre is under threat and now rail services.

The potential of Betteshanger Business Park has still not been realised nor has a North DEAL access road. In fact I am struggling to think of any direct positives Mr Elphicke has brought to DEAL.

So come on Charlie, now is your opportunity to actually make a difference and secure all day HS services to DEAL. It’s quite simple... all the DfT have to do is tell Southeastern to stop HS services at DEAL.