Rail firms begin battle for control of Kent and Sussex train service
THE battle to run our train services has begun.
A new consultation will decide who will operate the rail network in Kent and Sussex until 2020.
This stage of the process will define what standards the successful bidders will be expected to reach when the contracts – currently held by Southeastern and Southern – are put out to tender next year.
Commuting groups have highlighted improving services and better customer information as top priorities.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Southeastern currently runs trains through most of Kent, including the busy Hastings line, and is keen to remain in charge.
Tonbridge Line Commuters vice-chairman John Reynolds backed the firm.
He said: "We want to keep Southeastern, we want them to bring back the Tonbridge to Redhill service and we think it ought to go from Ashford.
"We think we will stand a better chance with Southeastern."
Other priorities for the Tonbridge group include more carriages to ease congestion, the reinstatement of Boxing Day services and half-hourly services to Hildenborough on Sundays. Currently they only run every hour.
Members are fiercely opposed to any plans to extend Transport for London's remit out as far as Sevenoaks.
Major upheaval lies ahead with the planned rebuilding of London Bridge.
Sevenoaks Rail Travellers' Association argued that the company's communication was woeful and needed urgent attention to keep disruption to a minimum when London Bridge work begins in earnest after the Olympics.
Chairman Dr Roger Johnson said: "What we're looking for will be further improvements to performance in terms of time-keeping and reliability.
"We believe the franchise should seek major improvements in customer information, particularly during disruption."
Dr Johnson accused Southeastern of lacking ambition and said it needed to adopt practices used by its sister operator Southern.
"Southeastern is always going to be a difficult franchise technically, but I believe if you compare the franchise to Southern, they are innovating in terms of services," he said.
"They produce printed newsletters for their customers and, generally speaking, their information when there is disruption is rather better.
"We really need an operator that is more like Southern to take on Southeastern and really enhance the travelling experience for passengers."
As the parent company to Southeastern and Southern, Govia hopes to be invited to tender for the new franchise in May next year.
Spokeswoman Samantha Hodder said: "We're always very focused on reclaiming businesses that we're currently operating.
"We will be looking to pre-qualify, get onto the shortlist and submit a bid for the franchise."