As many users of the MarshLink will be aware, following the introduction of Southern Railways May 2018 timetable, MarshLink Action Group (“MLAG”) conducted an on-board survey of passengers on the Ashford – Hastings line. We collected more than 500 responses at different times of day and on different days of the week, giving a representative coverage (including every train during the commuter peak period).
Among the aims of the survey was to assess what journeys passengers made, whether or not they thought the new timetable improved them, the effectiveness of Southern’s consultation and opinions on the proposed Javelin service along the MarshLink.
MLAG’s objective with the survey was to get a full and fair reflection of passengers’ views to be able to better represent them to Southern and this we have been doing in our discussions with Southern’s team over the past few months. We have also presented a summary of the findings to our local MP, Amber Rudd, and to Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill (who is also a member of the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee). MLAG, as a member of a wider group called Hastings & Rother Rail User Groups Alliance (“H&RRUGs”, also submitted a response to the Transport Select Committee’s rail timetable changes inquiry which can be seen here .
But, as we have said on many occasions before, timetable improvements are irrelevant without reliable performance. Since introduction of the May timetable, reliability was initially good but then operational problems set in and reliability became poor throughout the summer. After some improvement in the last few weeks we had another meltdown in services on Wednesday this week. The concern about reliability was reflected in responses to our survey, so MLAG and H&RRUGs have taken every opportunity to pursue Southern on performance and, in particular, the shuttle which is normally the first casualty. Performance issues were also alluded to in our joint submission to the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee consultation (although the work of the Committee is specifically restricted to timetable issues).
We wait to hear what is said at Amber Rudd’s Rail Summit, taking place Friday September 14, and we will report on the issues discussed in next week’s Rye News.
Image Credits: Rye News library.