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Can improvements be made to our local rail network

June 21, 2018 5:00 PM
By Gary Fuller in Folkestone Herald - Talking Points

Southeastern TrainThe biggest improvement we can make to the local rail network is to put customers in control. The recent timetable changes have shown us just how out of touch the rail companies are with the needs of their customers. There's various ways we can do this.

Firstly we need to create a rail ombudsman with real power to act on behalf of customers. The ombudsman will need the power to offer compensation to customers, as well as the power to fine and sanction rail companies that fail to offer excellent service.

The second way is to open the running of rail franchises to public sector bodies, not for profits and mutual groups. In this way, we can put local people directly in charge of their rail services, rather than shareholders or central government.

Thirdly we need to be more willing to remove rail franchises where they're not working. Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink are prime examples. This needs to be backed up with Government-run enterprises that can take over whilst new arrangements are made.

More locally we need to look towards a more integrated approach to public transport. Rail and bus service planning should be such that it is possible to get a bus from (and to) Folkestone West station, for example, to coincide with the arrival of trains.

We also need to reinstate rural train services to the Marsh. The railway from Dungeness power station currently links with passenger lines at Appledore station. If passenger trains ran from Appledore to Lydd, this would improve links with Ashford and Hastings for Marsh residents.

A final potential improvement would be to investigate having a Eurotunnel freight terminal further up the line. The aim would be to assist with alleviating the effects of Operation Stack and potential customs delays resulting from Brexit.