Do train changes hit key workers?

Train timetable changes will affect some commuters

If you are still using the Marshlink rail service you may well have noticed some changes already to the timetable – the weekday service now being operated is the Saturday service (so no Rye shuttle). This follows government intervention to achieve an acceptable level of services (though at a reduced level) across the whole rail network, in particular:

  • To reduce services in the expectation that crew numbers will reduce as the virus affects crew availability;
  • (not really of any impact on the Marshlink, but so you are aware) the Department for Transport is replacing the current rail franchises with management contracts so that the rail operators aren’t exposed to the reduction of passenger numbers expected in this emergency period.

As it happens, GTR, our rail operator, already operates under a management contract (for a similar reason relevant when the contract was put in place, that the major works at London Bridge station made passenger numbers, and therefore cash flow, unpredictable).

Returning to the Marshlink timetable, the service operating this week is the Saturday service, so our normal service, but without the Rye/Ashford shuttle. But Southern Railway has advised us that they were considering reducing the service to the Sunday service – this would mean losing our early morning and late evening services as well as the Rye shuttle.

MLAG (together with the other rail action groups along the line working under the name Hastings and Rother Rail User Alliance, HRRUA) has made representations that this would impact key workers using the line to get to essential work.

We have therefore requested the services operating under the new regime should cover the same range of timing as now whilst accepting that some services may be cut. This request applied to the Marshlink and also services to Victoria from Hastings/ Ore. We await a decision on this request.

We would have liked to have given some specific examples of key workers using the lines in support of our request, but we have been unable to identify any. I must thank for putting a request up on their Twitter feed and I hope they will continue to update passengers about changing issues with the Marshlink services during a period when, unfortunately, MLAG’s website is out of action.

But if you are a designated key worker, I’d be grateful if you would contact MLAG at and tell us about rail problems which you encounter that you think should be made known to Southern, our local MPs and our government.

Image Credits: Rye News library .


  1. Southern Railways have responded to requests from MLAG and other rail user groups about the issues raised in the main article as follows:
    The train service due for introduction on Monday 30th March is a revised Sunday service pattern with extra trains in the early mornings and evenings across the network. I am confident that it will deliver for the emergency and other key workers where it is an essential service. We will continue to monitor passenger loadings and revise calling patterns and services as necessary.

    We are taking steps to ensure that our service is as resilient as possible and for example, have suspended the Gatwick Express service between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport. This will enable our Gatwick Express trains and crew to provide additional support to Southern services across the network.

    I would like to especially thank the stakeholders who have been in touch this week to help shape our plans, and while we cannot meet all requests, the service will be as resilient as possible when people need it most. Journey planners such as will be updated this weekend.
    I have to say that, last week, Southern raised the issue of running a Sunday service may have repercussions on key staff and sought comments from rail action groups, which we did. Even though MLAG was unable to give an example of a key worker needing to use the early morning and late evening services I consider this an example of cooperative between Southern and its stakeholders.
    Nonetheless, please do not travel unless you have to – apart from anything else, to provide the social distancing we all need to maintain.

    Stuart Harland
    Chairman, MLAG


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