Tonbridge Line Commuters has recently responded to an “investigation” by the Transport Committee of the London Assembly into “the case for rail devolution in London”. As made clear in the Transport Committee’s consultation paper, the Mayor of London is keen to gain further control of rail services in the London region, including certain services currently operated by our local rail company Southeastern. Most significantly for us, that includes Southeastern metro services to Sevenoaks.
We have highlighted several concerns with these plans. One key point is that the track between Sevenoaks and Orpington is shared between metro services and mainline services, the latter being used by passengers from Tonbridge, Paddock Wood and Hildenborough. We are concerned about the preservation of train paths for the mainline services, both in the scheduled timetable and at times of disruption, when we wonder whose trains will be given priority (the Mayor’s or ours). Moreover, we note that the Mayor is electorally dependent on London voters and is therefore likely to favour rail services used by Londoners over trains used by Kent residents. We can easily see, for example, that the Mayor (through Transport for London) may seek to increase the number of rush hour trains calling stations such as Knockholt and Chelsfield, reducing the space available for our mainline services.
As well as responding to the London Assembly, we have shared our concerns with Tom Tugendhat MP. With Kent County Council having set out their “red lines” in relation to the Mayor’s proposal, we await further developments.