Tory transport minister and Kent council leader sell Sevenoaks commuters short with shoddy Southeastern service
By Alan Bullion
Angry Sevenoaks commuters are right to react with fury at Tory transport minister Chris Grayling's betrayal, who is being supported by Kent County Council's Conservative leader Paul Carter.
By torpedoing the devolution of London rail services starting at Sevenoaks to TfL, Grayling has condemned us to:
- continuing increases in fares, which are already the highest in the UK
- no integrated ticketing with London journeys - which means we pay a penalty every time we use the tube
- the same old franchising system which gives us the worst service in Britain
- no staff at local stations like Dunton Green, Bat and Ball or Shoreham, with safety implications
- continuing high levels of fare evasion and lack of security
- no investment in additional rail capacity, while government insists on building thousands more homes in the area
"This is a recipe for worse travel conditions for working people, trying to get to jobs in London. At the very least we deserve an explanation why Sevenoaks has been left in this mess, while similar towns north of the Thames are already reaping the gains from the TfL approach. But if Grayling had any sense he would go back, look at the evidence, and change the decision," said Lib Dem Cllr Tony Clayton.
"The only think he seems to have done today is give Southeastern Railway, which has shown itself unable to empty the train toilets or fix the lights at the stations, a hand in organising the signals. Does that fill anyone with confidence?
This looks like a political decision to spite new London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan. Local Conservative MPs must be very worried indeed. Some have already expressed their anger in public, one from Bromley even calling for Grayling to resign. What has Michael Fallon got to say?" said Lib Dem parliamentary spokesman Alan Bullion, who commutes to Cannon Street every day.
"I am indeed angry! Commuters in Sevenoaks, Dunton Green and local area have had to put up with some of the poorest service and highest fares per mile of track anywhere in the country. And we've all had to get used to feeling constantly ignored by Southeastern and the decision makers. The dissatisfaction with Southeastern is strong, and the benefits of moving to an integrated model with TfL are clear. This decision is another big smack in the face for us," said Sevenoaks commuter and Riverhead resident Iain Porter.
"It goes against all the evidence and the desire of not just TFL but Sevenoaks commuters, the local authorities and our own MP. The benefits to our local community and economy of handing the Metro to TFL were clear but the Secretary of state has chosen to abandon sense and cook up a recipe for higher fares and now signals & track maintained by a company that can't even keep a brand new ticket machine (that took them over 6 months to install) operational for more than two days at a time.
I think Mr Fallon has some serious questions to answer as to how much he cares for his constituency. I have no confidence in him at all," said Dunton Green commuter Paul Malyon.
Stop Press: Lib Dem councillors in Maidstone have voted to support extra stopping trains at Swanley to London from 2018 in support of local commuters. More news on this shortly.
Your local Lib Dem candidates and councillors working on your behalf at Bat & Ball and Swanley stations.