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Declarations of Interests by Members in items on the Agenda for this Meeting
No declarations were made.
Mr M Payne, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport; Mrs B Cooper, Corporate Director Growth, Environment and Transport; Mrs S Holt-Castle, Director of Environment, Planning and Enforcement; Mr S Gasche, Rail Project Manager and Mr M Welch, Principal Transport Planner were in attendance for this item.
1. The Chairman introduced the item and invited the proposer of the call-in, Mr Bird, to provide an overview of the grounds for his call-in request, Mr Farrell as the seconder and Mr Hotson as a local Member were invited to speak in addition. Mr Farrell reserved his right to speak.
2. Mr Bird stated his disappointment that his request that Cllr Martin Cox, Leader of Maidstone Borough Council and Mr Geoff Miles, Chairman of the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership be permitted to make verbal representations was not agreed by the Chairman. Section 17.63(e) of the Constitution was cited, that the Chairman and Group Spokespersons on the Scrutiny Committee shall agree which other witnesses are asked to attend, with the Chairman being responsible for the final decision where agreement could not be reached. The Chairman asserted that written representations would have satisfied the criteria.
3. Mr Bird presented the justification for his call-in request. He gave an overview of rail travel trends in Maidstone, addressed previous Kent travel strategies, and cited previous commitments and dialogue with the Secretary of State for Transport and Minister of State for Railways. He noted the demand from commuters for a direct service to the City of London of one-hour or less, which had been reflected in previous policy documents. It was contended that the Thameslink service supported in the Kent Rail Strategy 2021 could take up to 75 minutes, which contradicted the Key Requirements of the Rail Action Plan for Kent (2011). Mr Bird raised his concerns that the support of a Thameslink service between Maidstone East and London Blackfriars via the Catford loop could inhibit the development of faster Thameslink services in the future.
4. Mr Hotson outlined his concerns with the Maidstone East Thameslink service supported in the Rail Strategy. He stressed the need for direct Thameslink services between Maidstone East and London Blackfriars and suggested that support be given to a faster service, than that endorsed in the strategy. It was noted that a significant volume of commuter road traffic from Maidstone to Staplehurst and Marden stations had developed as a result of the town’s poor rail links to the City of London, a comparison between rail services on the South East main line and Maidstone line was made.
5. Mr Payne confirmed the role of the Kent Rail Strategy, to act as an advisory document to central government, which gave KCC the opportunity to shape and inform future policy decisions. He informed the Committee that KCC did not have access to Department for Transport rail strategy plans. Mr Payne confirmed his attendance at a series of meetings involving Kent MPs and the Minister of State for Railways and that subsequent MP-Minister meetings had ... view the full minutes text for item 31.