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Olympic trouble for train users in Kent


Next year’s Olympic Games will mean commuters from Kent will face busier trains and delays

The event may be one of the biggest this country has ever seen for sports fans, but for Kent’s rail users it will mean delays and disruption.

Southeastern this week announced its timetable for the two-week period next summer, and the hardest-hit passengers will be those who use the high-speed service to London.

The Javelin trains, which normally run to Dover, Folkestone, Canterbury, Ramsgate and Margate, will be used to shuttle sports fans between St Pancras in north London and Ebbsfleet - with a stop in the middle at the Olympic stadium in Stratford.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) wants Southeastern to run eight trains per hour along the high-speed line between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet.

Originally all the trains would have terminated at Ebbsfleet, but Southeastern has persuaded the authority to allow two of the trains to continue on to Ashford and one to continue on to Faversham, each hour.

Extra late-night services have also been scheduled for those stations.

Passengers further down the line will have to use mainline trains to Ashford and Faversham and change if they want to continue using the fast connection.

ODA director of transport Hugh Sumner described the rail service as being “significantly enhanced” during the Olympics.

This may be true for those living in the London area, but for Kent passengers there will inevitably be more crowded trains and longer journeys.

The train operator has said it will compensate high-speed passengers from the stations affected during the Olympics.

The company defended the decision to give compensation in vouchers rather than cash. The vouchers will be given to holders of monthly and longer period high-speed tickets.

A spokesman said: “We appreciate for some passengers using high speed it will not be a through service but because we have provided a service for passengers who need to travel, even though it may take longer, we have opted to give the compensation in vouchers rather than cash. Passengers can still get refunds for tickets not used.

“We will be contacting everyone on our list before Christmas and in May. The vouchers can be used on any rail or tube journey in the next 12 months or towards the cost of a season ticket.”

Southeastern says the mainline service will be largely unaffected during the Games, which run from July 27 to August 12.

The timetable is based on the prediction that there will be 10 per cent fewer passengers using rail services at that time of year because of people being on holiday.

The news comes after it was revealed there would be disruption to rail services in Kent over Christmas while Network Rail installed new signalling on the tracks.

A spokesman for Southeastern said the timetable was the best it could do for its regular customers given the demands put on it by the ODA.

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, which represents rail users said: “Passengers do not like disruption and will want clear, timely information so they can plan ahead. Those on routes that are the worst affected will need to be compensated. Passengers have told us they would rather receive cash instead of rail vouchers.”

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