Southern meet their customers

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Phil Hutchinson had the unenviable job of explaining Southern's plans to a sceptical audience

MarshLink Action Group (MLAG) hosted a packed public meeting at Rye Town Hall on Thursday, November 29.

MLAG Chairman Stuart Harland opens the meeting

The evening started with an apology from Phil Hutchinson, representing Southern Rail. The apology was for the appalling rail service people had experienced in recent months, and especially for that afternoon when most of the Marshlink service had been cancelled and replacement buses laid on. The audience were informed that reliability of the train service has got worse in recent months with one in five shuttle services cancelled. [To say nothing of one morning this week when 3 out of 4 shuttle and scheduled services were cancelled in thespace of 1 1/2 hours- ed.]

Mr Hutchinson outlined the multiple reasons why the service had become so bad and highlighted recent cases of vandalism with trains being damaged by stones being thrown at them in the Ore area. He told the meeting that the trains are at ‘mid-life’ and need more and regular maintenance, much of which cannot be done locally so the trains need to travel up to Selhurst depot in South-East London. He informed the group that they are continuing to analyse the causes of the cancelled trains and looking for ways that different parts of the network could work better together to avoid cancellations and the late running of the service.

Rother DC lead councillor on tourism Sally Ann Hart (flanked by ESCC leader Keith Glazier and Rye Deputy Mayor Rebekah Gilbert)

Following the inexcusable cases of people being left stranded at Rye station last summer due to overcrowded trains, he took the opportunity to announce that they are investigating laying on longer trains for special occasions next summer and the possibility of additional services at weekends through-out the summer months.

Around 70 people attended including Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, Sally Ann Hart, Rother District Council’s lead on culture and tourism development, Lord Ampthill, one of Rye’s two representatives on Rother District Council, Michael Boyd, mayor of Rye and Barry Blakelock, head teacher of the Rye Academy. All stressed the need for a reliable service – whether to encourage visitors to come to the area and boost the local economy or just getting kids to school on time.

Next week we’ll report on the High Speed debate – yes, a debate. If the service should ever operate in the future, not everyone wants a High Speed service to stop at Rye.

Image Credits: John Minter.

1 COMMENT

  1. It is laughable that Southern are having to ‘analyse’ the situation. I suggest the problems with the line can be summarised as follows:
    – poor, non-existent, over running maintenance of the trains, whether through incompetence or cost saving;
    – train staff who mysteriously get ‘ill’ on Fridays (particularly when sunny), Monday morning (0545 departure a frequent casualty) or at other random times;
    – inability of management to act quickly and decisively in providing coaches when necessary, with good information;
    – no attempt whatsoever to have a connection policy at Ashford;
    – no pride in the service, probably because Southern receive a massive government subsidy to run it and ticket income is meaningless;
    – a willingness to listen to so-called commuter groups which results in a timetable change that totally ruins real commuting, putting reliance on the consistently bad shuttle. Commuting is not toddling off to Hastings a couple of times a week for coffee with a friend.

    Other readers may wish to add to the list.

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