Fighting for better train services

I held talks with rail ministers after it emerged the number of direct high speed trains between Deal and Sandwich and London could reduce in the next franchise.

New specifications state a minimum of 12 high speed trains per day in each direction must stop at Deal and Sandwich. There are currently 14 high speed calls to London and 17 in the other direction. The number of high speed trains between London and Dover will remain unaffected.

Myself and South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay demanded a meeting with rail minister Andrew Jones to call for more direct services for Deal and Sandwich.

We fought so hard to get the fast train sweeping into Deal all day, every day. Now we want to secure more trains - especially at rush hour. The minister was left in no doubt about our strength of feeling on this. I was grateful he took our concerns on board and hope that we now see action.

The high speed service to Dover was extended to Sandwich, Deal, Walmer and Martin Mill in 2011 following a long campaign. It meant journey times to London were reduced from around two hours to one-and-a-half. The Department for Transport is yet to choose an operator for the next South Eastern franchise, stating a decision will be made later this year. Current providers Govia as well as Stagecoach and Abellio have made bids.

We also called on the Department to improve station facilities. At Sandwich around £4 million is being invested ahead of The Open golf event at Royal St George's. And following a recent campaign, major refurbishment works have been agreed at Deal and Dover Priory train stations. Deal will get a new deck and steps as part of a complete refurbishment, while major improvements to the footbridge at Dover Priory have also been confirmed

To address reported antisocial behaviour at Deal including "train surfing", a senior officer from British Transport Police has been allocated to the station for the first time.

I was pleased rail bosses responded to our campaign and stepped up to get our train stations back on track. Yet I am determined to keep fighting. Our area has benefited so much from improved train services and deserves the best possible transport links.