Monday, May 21 2018

Published on September 7 2017. Opinions
Incompetence of Southern Rail
if only the service was as lovely as this bit of history

Incompetence of Southern Rail

In the last two months, I have had two protracted journeys back from Gatwick. It does feel that living in Rye, while a beautiful place, has its downsides when trying to come home in the evenings. During the day it seems to work better but in the evening it can become a journey that is longer than the flight from Europe or Ireland to the airport, when it should take no more than two hours from Gatwick or one and half hours from London.

Recently, on returning from a trip to Spain, I had no problem on the Spanish side, everything went like clockwork, as did another journey, this time from Portaferry (North of Belfast) to Gatwick. It was at this end the problem started. Arriving at 6:30pm I thought there would be plenty of time to get the various trains, the last from Hastings to Ashford International via Rye is at 9:35pm, the last bus from Hastings to Rye is 7:10pm, so time was of the essence.

After arriving in good time from both holidays, it turned out there was no train to Eastbourne, where I needed to change to get the Hastings/Rye/Ashford train. Then we were told we had to travel to Brighton to change to an Eastbourne train. One was cancelled and they put on a special train as there were a lot of people waiting. We were told it would take us to Hastings only and there were no further onward trains from there. Because of the chaos it was standing room only. I took the suitcase seat as by this time I was exhausted dragging my suitcase around. In Hastings, it was now 8pm and we were told that we would have to wait  for the 8:36pm transfer bus. The bus arrived close to the given time but then the driver told us we needed to wait for another train that was expected, which eventually he was told had also been cancelled and at last we were able to head off just after 9pm, arriving in Rye at 9:45pm.

The second journey from Gatwick was no better with its cancellation and delays, but most frustrating was that, when we arrived in Eastbourne, the Ashford train was on the other platform  and several of us rushed the short distance to get it. It pulled out with total disregard for passengers who were obviously trying to transfer from one train to the other. It was cruel, as another few seconds and we would have made it.  This time, once again they had to put on an unscheduled train as it was rather late and the platform was full of people.

How can we force two different train companies, running on adjacent lines, to talk to each other and find a more conducive way of running the train services together and complement each other, especially as, in this case, both companies belong to the same parent organisation. In Ashford, could they not co-ordinate the London trains with the Marsh Link, to avoid 35 to 60 minutes waiting time between arrival of the Javelin and departure of the Marsh Link, which totally negates the time saving and extra expense of the Javelin, when an adjustment of a few minutes would help the connections?

And I don’t accept that is is not possible or costs too much money. Stop the Javelin extension to Hastings (I know some people like the idea) and spend the money, much less, on a more functional connection to Rye. I have sympathy for the weekly commuters who get caught, sometimes several days a week, in this inadequate system.



Photo: Heidi Foster

There Are 5 Comments

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  1. Anthony Finerty says:

    I can’t understand why the people of Rye and district aren’t up in arms about the appalling situation concern Southern Railways. I have been to Rye but only by train. If everybody in Rye and district drive cars you will never get any peace or people friendly streets in the town.

  2. sue Williams says:

    I am puzzled
    Isn’t there a train that goes from Brighton direct to Rye?
    Surely a much easier trip from Gatwick?
    I have taken this route many times without too much trouble.

  3. Firstly in general, I do not wish to be an apologist for Southern Railways who, in the last several years, have been the operator of a horrendous service. How has this come about – by poor management (e.g. in Heidi example, the parent company’s inability to organise cooperation between their subsidiaries managing connections at Eastbourne Station and, for MarshLink users, connectivity at SouthEastern managed Ashford Station); by Government action (e.g. by imposing a management contract rather than the normal franchise so all ticket revenue goes to the Government with Southern receiving a management fee so service changes need Department for Transport sanction); by joint action between the company and the Government (e.g. the replacement of Guards/ Conductors with On Board Supervisors and the resulting strike action); by equipment breakdown (the diesel units operated on the MarshLink and the Uckfield lines have been going through a significant re-engineering programme and should be more reliable as they are brought back into service); and by circumstance (e.g. the major restructuring of London Bridge station with its many knock-on effects).

    With regard to Heidi’s experiences in two journeys from Gatwick, this is a question that should be put to Southern and MLAG would like to put the specific timings and advice given to Southern for them to respond to. That does not change the impact on the day of course, but it does mean that Southern are required to acknowledge and account for a failure in their service. Another after-the-event action which I would recommend everyone to take after experiencing a delay of more than 15 mins is to make a claim on the Delay/ Repay scheme – go to . Unfortunately, completing this online form will add to the time lost in your journey but, together with all other claims, will provide some record of passengers’ delay experiences that can be used to support change.

    I need to make some comments regarding Heidi’s comments on the proposed Javelin service. The best connection possible at Ashford is to not have to change trains – that is one thing the Javelin service would achieve. It would also provide a second train per hour (an all stops service). Many locals obsess about connectivity onto the Javelin but many other passengers want to get to a station on the Charing Cross line; or to the Kent services; or to Paris/ Brussels. A second train per hour (I must add here, it would not provide a half-hourly service because it would be running slower than the Javelin service) would help to reduce the wait time at Ashford.

    So please do not be negative about the Javelin proposal – it would significantly improve our timetable and, if it wasn’t implemented, we would remain in the backwater.

    Finally, I have heard rumours around town that we are soon to get a 3-car diesel service – that will not happen in the foreseeable future (regrettably) and we are stuck with the 2-car service. Additionally, there has been a lot of comment about the May 2018 timetable – I am hopeful that this will be an improvement on the current one but, of course operated by the same 2-car diesel equipment and be subject to the mis-management Heidi (and many others) have experienced.

  4. Heidi Foster says:

    Heidi Foster

    Re Sue Williams comment. Yes, there is supposed to be a Brighton train from Rye if they are not cancelled or in dispute. In fact the quickest route to Gatwick is change at Eastbourne, quick easy change of platforms and if everything is on time it is not a difficult or lengthy journey.

    But as I describe above when things go wrong the journeys are frustrating, more so for weekly commuters of course and one wonders why the train companies seem unable to do better but justify hiking the ticket prices.

    Re Stuart Harland’s comments, I have taken note but I guess we have to agree to disagree re the Javelin. However, I may yet be proven wrong if it happens while I am still around.

  5. Andrew Bamji says:

    Having once discovered that a train journey from Gatwick to Rye would take nearly nine hours (the Gatwick to Brighton train was to arrive after the last coastal train, and I would have to wait overnight on Brighton Station) I have always taken a car transfer. Expensive, but comfortable and reliable!

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