A NEW timetable is being introduced by rail company Southeastern next month that will see an end to first class travel from Tunbridge Wells to London.
From December 11, there will only be standard tickets available for those travelling from Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge to London stations.
Other changes have been planned to to ease ‘bottlenecks and congestion on routes’.
Southeastern said the timetable improvements will ensure that more trains run on time, with fewer cancellations, meaning around 300,000 more station stops will be on time every year.
The rail company also said the changes will reduce congestion at busy junctions such as at Lewisham, Paddock Wood and Tonbridge to improve punctuality.
Scott Brightwell, Operations and Safety Director for Southeastern, said: “The way we all travel has changed post-pandemic, and many of our customers are now using our services differently and at varying times of the day.
“This new and improved timetable delivers a more consistent all-day service and means we’re providing trains – and space – where it’s needed most, which reflects the way people now travel.
“Our customers tell us that reliability and punctuality are their highest priorities. So, we’ve simplified routes to remove bottlenecks, which will see more trains running on time, fewer cancellations and a more reliable service,” Mr Brightwell explained.
“The simpler structure of the timetable, with most trains leaving stations at broadly the same time each hour, means we can more add more trains into the timetable as demand changes.
“As we continue to recover from the pandemic, our focus remains on providing the most convenient and reliable railway for everyone who uses it,” he said.
But commuter groups have slammed the changes.
Robert Mansfield of the Tonbridge Line Commuters said: “Southeastern chose not to consult on this timetable, which they are normally obliged to, and the Department for Transport signed off on the lack of consultation.”
He explained that while the removal of first class was ‘uncontroversial’, he said that other changes could lead to a ‘death spiral’ on the line.
Mr Mansfield continued: “We are not opposed to change, but there is a real danger of forcing the railway into a death spiral where a reduced service fails to serve passengers, leading to few people using the trains and services getting reduced again.
“Part of Southeastern’s approach is to simplify the network and remove as many tricky manoeuvres as possible. Tunbridge Wells seems to be the exception to this.
“The power supply problems on the Hastings line limits the number of 12-car trains that can run down south of Tunbridge Wells. Southeastern want more capacity through the station and so there are going to be lots more attachments and detachments at the station to accommodate the power supply limitations,” he explained.