KCC has put its weight behind a campaign by Maidstone commuters who are mounting a last-ditch attempt to save high-speed train services to London.
More than 2,200 people have delivered a petition to the Department for Transport opposing plans to scrap the early-morning journeys from Maidstone West to St Pancras International.
Commuters say the proposed changes will add at least 20 minutes to their journeys every morning and evening.
Protesters were joined in a protest meeting at Maidstone West on Wednesday morning by Michael Payne, KCC’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste.
KCC Leader Paul Carter was unable to attend because of other appointments, but said in a statement:
“I fully support the cause for the retention, and indeed the enhancement, of high-speed services to Snodland and Maidstone West.
“Kent County Council’s response to the Department for Transport’s public consultation in May 2017 included the case for retaining peak high-speed services at Maidstone West and adding an hourly off-peak service.
“This latter proposal was not taken up by the DfT, which I expressed my huge disappointment over.
“In even stronger terms, I have made it very clear to the DfT that the reduction of high-speed services or the proposed replacement of these services with a connecting service between Maidstone West and Abbey Wood would be unacceptable, as it would represent a circuitous journey with dubious benefit, and that elected members at both KCC and Maidstone Borough Council want the retention of high-speed services at Maidstone West.
“While demand at Maidstone West and Snodland will continue to grow with the delivery of substantial amounts of new housing, the benefit of running more frequent and higher capacity (12-car) trains on this service is that it would also provide the capacity required to meet the substantial demand at Strood and Gravesend, and therefore offer relief to the already overcrowded high-speed service via Medway.
“Given the substantial growth across Kent and Medway, more frequent and higher capacity high-speed services are required, and it is essential that the DfT and the operator of the new rail franchise, which is due to commence in April 2019, recognise this and provide the level of service that Kent commuters need. Work/life decisions have been made based on this service operating for a number of years now and it must continue to do so.
“KCC will continue to make this case to the DfT and the new franchise operator, whom we will meet for discussions once the award has been announced.”