Friday, 12 December 2014

Open Letter to David Statham, MD Southeastern, DEAL station improvements

As I am sure you know, the introduction of high-speed(HS) services to DEAL has been a huge success and the imminent introduction of an all day service from January 2015 is highly anticipated. I have no doubt that passenger numbers will continue to grow from and to DEAL station.

However although the introduction of HS services has turned DEAL into the South East's newest commuter town we have not seen any investment from higher fares returned into station improvements. In fact we have lost our main station clock which became faulty and has never been replaced.

Therefore I would like you to consider the following improvements which I think are very reasonable.

New Shelter (platform 1)

During bad weather most passengers congregate in the station building or its canopy however a shelter further down the platform would be extremely beneficial and I suspect could pay for itself with advertising sales.

New Passenger Information Displays

The exisiting two displays are just not adequate and very difficult to read. Most stations have new led displays however DEAL has lacked any modernisation.

Blue Station Lighting

LED efficient blue lighting has dramatically reduced crime in areas where it has been trialled, such as Glasgow. This simple change would make DEAL station much more welcoming in the evening and help reduce crime and anti social behaviour.

DEAL station

Friday, 5 December 2014

DEAL HS Services (Q&A Southeastern & Network Rail)

Yesterday I spoke to Southeastern and Network Rail managers at St Pancras at their 'Meet the Manager’ event and I thought you might like to read some of the main points we discussed.

Q: High-speed (HS) services from DEAL have dramatically reduced the journey time to London but line speed is still fairly slow up to Folkestone, can it be improved?

A: The track between Dover to Folkestone is built on chalk and clay next to cliffs which often have landslides, in fact the track actually moves slightly because of its geographical location. It would be incredibly difficult to improve line speed but we are improving land slide defences. The track between DEAL to Dover is a different matter and we could do something there to increase line speed, a decision would need to be made whether there is enough usage to make it commercially viable.

Q: HS services to DEAL often get delayed near Martin Mill due to late running mainline services, would upgrading signalling rectify this.

A: Over the next two years DEAL will lose its signal box and the existing signals will be modernised however the gap we need to maintain between trains will still be the same, so unfortunately it won't solve the problem. DEAL has become a commuter town in recent years however the infrastructure we are working with was built a long time ago.

Q: HS services will serve DEAL until 2018 but what happens after that? There has been a lot of speculation about a Manston Parkway station and Westenhager Parkway station.

A: Westenhanger Parkway station is unrealistic however Manston Parkway is still feasible. The good news for DEAL is now that HS services have been secured it would be very difficult to take them away post 2018 regardless of who runs the franchise.

Q: From January most peak services from DEAL will be additionally stopping at Ebbsfleet however they are often standing room only already from Ashford. Is this a wise decision?

A: If you look at the existing peak shuttle services to Ebbsfleet from St Pancras in the evening they are often very lightly used. We will be using more carriages on peak morning services via Canterbury West so I don’t think it will be a problem. However the sheer volume of passengers who want to get into London on these peak services does mean we have very little spare capacity. Ideally we need a few more class 395 units (HS trains) and that is a discussion we will be having with the Department for Transport.

Monday, 17 November 2014

New January 2015 timetable (All day HS for DEAL)

The new Southeastern January 2015 timetable is now available and there are significant changes for DEAL which includes an all day and every day HS loop service which will also provide direct services to Faversham and the Medway towns.

You can download the timetables here.

HS journey times on average are DEAL to St Pancras (via Ashford) 1hr 23mins, DEAL to St Pancras (via Faversham 2hrs 6mins). Fares on the HS Faversham route should be at a discounted rate for DEAL, WALMER, Martin Mill and Sandwich passengers, however I am still waiting for confirmation from Southeastern on this.

The new timetable will give DEAL a huge opportunity to capitalise on tourism, enable greater scope for leisure trips to London and new route opportunities to North Kent. The reduction in off peak mainline services should also reduce signalling delays.

The last weekday HS service from St Pancras will be 23:37 which gets into DEAL at 00:59.

Friday, 5 September 2014

All day HS1 for DEAL - what now?

"Were getting fast trains to DEAL which Labour said was just a little village." Charlie Elphicke on The Last Word (ITV)

All day/every day Southeastern high-speed (HS1) services for DEAL are due to start 11th January 2015. The long campaign was often exasperated by the ignorance of many people who did not realise DEAL is a district centre with a population comparable to many Kent primary towns. Fortunately through news, social media and word of mouth people are starting to change their perception and discover what most of us locals have been saying for ages... "High Street of the Year", "Top ten best place to live by the sea", "Best place for a weekend retreat in Kent", "Best pub in Kent", "Coolest Coffee House in Kent" etc.. etc.

So where does the ignorance stem from? Probably repression from Dover centric politics and inequality. If you watched the The Last Word (ITV) which the above screenshot is from, you would hear Charlie Elphicke MP for Dover talk about his constituency of Dover, his success for the port of Dover and hospital for Dover and at the very end of the programme a little quip about DEAL not being a village. Of course it gets worse; our district is called Dover even though a large part of it is comprised of DEAL and Sandwich. The official Dover District Council tourism Twitter account is called @VisitDover, their investment and regeneration campaign is called Invest in Dover.

Is it any wonder visitors, investment, jobs and public transport services often head straigth for Dover rather than DEAL.

The blame cannot just be attributed to Charlie Elphicke or the Conservative Dover District Council cabinet who rejected officially changing the constituency name to 'Dover & Deal'. As pointed out by Charlie Elphicke, the previous Labour government
Department of Transport showed complete contempt to the claim DEAL was a primary town worthy of a suitable rail service. In fact it was responsible for severe degradation of rail services. However for the record the below extract does show the MP at the time was more amicable than his government.

My personal opinion is that a new constituency should be formed "DEAL & SANDWICH" and Dover District Council should be abolished and replaced with an East Kent Unitary Authority. In May 2015 we have the chance to vote for a new MP or return the existing one and the DEAL vote can be decisive. Furthermore we have the chance to vote for councillors who make up Dover District Council and Deal Town Council. Although politics is often driven by national parties and policies my vote will go to people I think will best work for DEAL.

And to answer the question "what now?".. I am feeling confident that DEAL is on the UP!

Monday, 30 June 2014

All day HS service to DEAL (January 2015 Draft Timetable)

The draft Southeastern HS 2015 timetable has been released. This will finally give DEAL and Sandwich an all day high speed service and will also bring HS services to Walmer for the first time.

High Speed to DEAL via Ashford (approx 1 hour 22 mins)

High Speed to DEAL via Faversham (approx 2 hours 6 mins)

Peak mainline services (DEAL to Charing Cross & Cannon Street)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

UPDATE: All-day HS for DEAL & Sandwich

Verbal update from Mr Gasche (KCC Principal Transport Planner – Rail)

The next phase of the highspeed franchise is the award of the Direct Award contract for the period covering December 2014 to June 2018. Existing DEAL & Sandwich highspeed peak-time services will be included in the contract and are guaranteed until June 2018. Highspeed peak services will largely stay as they are in terms of pattern and frequency, but some will call additionally at Martin Mill and Walmer.

There will be a new high-speed off-peak loop service which will operate in both directions every hour. This service will replace the off-peak mainline service to Charing Cross, but passengers at Martin Mill, Walmer, DEAL and Sandwich wishing to travel to Charing Cross can do so by changing at Ashford. Subject to the Department for Transport’s agreement, passengers from these stations will be able to travel off-peak on the highspeed service via Faversham at mainline fares.

The off-peak mainline service to and from Dover Priory will reduce from two to one train per hour.

The practice of attaching and detaching trains at Ashford will stop. Passengers travelling off-peak at the weekend from Sandwich or DEAL will pay mainline fares if they travel to and from London via the north Kent line. The premium fare applies to highspeed services operating between Ashford and St Pancras. 

The new highspeed timetable is likely to be publicly available from May or June 2014.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Isn't it time we had democracy for DEAL

Why is the district called Dover? 

Why is the constituency called Dover? 

Why should DEAL hospital be sacrificed for a new Dover hospital? 

Why does the district council throw its full resources behind a cinema for Dover yet appears lacklustre regarding the Regent Cinema?

I could go on indefinitely but I am sure you get the idea. Of course Dover used to be a primary urban area in East Kent but while its population has flatlined over the past 80 years, the population of DEAL has increased exponentially.

Ideally DEAL Town Council would have evolved into an entity ensuring the democratic needs of not only DEAL but also Walmer, Kingsdown and Ringwould were championed. However scandal and concealment has made it almost as detached from the community as the district council itself.

So what has all this got to do with trains I hear you ask. Well I have long held the belief that DEAL which I perceive includes Walmer, Kingsdown, Ringwould and the villages has always been treated with contempt by the district council but presumed it was 'just me'... But when I read this following extract in the latest edition of Kent Business which has a feature about DEAL I realised I might not be alone.

Kent Business (February 2014) 

DEAL has progressed significantly over the last few years but isn't it time we had democracy?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Southeastern proposal for all day HS services for DEAL

On the 17th December 2013 Trains4Deal reported that the latest Sountheastern stakeholder newsletter proposed that the December 2014 timetable (extended to start January 2015) should include an off peak all day and weekend high-speed (HS) service for DEAL, Sandwich, Walmer and Martin Mill.

Fantastic News *air punch*! Unfortunately my own personal jubilation was short lived when I read the full proposal the following day:

"We have received much demand from passengers, Kent County Council, Trains 4 Deal and Dover District Council for a continuation of the HS service from Deal and Sandwich, and if possible extending this to an all day service.

We are therefore proposing an all-day circular service connecting Ramsgate and Dover Priory. This will mean the HS services will begin to additionally serve Martin Mill and Walmer for the first time.

This service will replace the existing lightly-used off-peak mainline service."

My experience of using mainline services from DEAL have never given me the impression they are 'lightly-used', a considerable amount of people including school children rely on the existing mainline service. The London Bridge rebuild has also been shoe horned in as an excuse to stop mainline services. However I suspect the real reason is that Southeastern are not confident that the Kent Coast Line and its signalling which has had very little investment from Network Rail for years is up to the task of running an increased number of trains per hour.

I have long supported the idea of a HS loop service but had always assumed it would use the more logical Canterbury West, Sandwich, DEAL, Dover route.

But after a lot of mulling over, I have come to the conclusion this is a proposal that does benefit DEAL and can work in our advantage. Feedback on this draft proposal is required by 7th February 2014 and I would urge you to do so, whatever your opinion or alternative ideas are. The full proposal and contact details are here.

I am going to finish this post with my own pros and cons:


All day and weekend HS services for DEAL.
DEAL would be served entirely by a modern 395 class HS rolling stock.
Off peak passengers via Faversham would pay standard class only.
DEAL would have better access to job opportunities in North Kent/Thames Gateway.


Passengers would need to change at Ashford (for Charing Cross) or Rochester (for Victoria).
An HS loop via Canterbury would be more desirable.
Stopping at Walmer and Martin Mill will increase journey times.
Overall DEAL would have 10 fewer trains per day.