Last word on timetable turmoil?

Are passengers being well served?

Being positive about a reduced Ashford – Eastbourne MarshLink service, with the response date to GTR/ Southern’s 2018 Timetable Consultation Phase 2 now past, MLAG (together with the other Rail User Groups (RUGs) along the MarshLink) is hoping the new MarshLink timetable will be based on a turnaround at Eastbourne rather than Hastings (as Southern first proposed in response to the Phase 1 consultation).

Nonetheless, it should be recognised that turning round at Eastbourne is the RUG’s second best choice, all preferring the service continuing in accordance with the current franchise, Ashford – Brighton, a service that was hard fought for ten years or so ago. But we have had to recognise that the popularity of the service has resulted in severe overcrowding, particularly west of Hastings, which needed to be resolved. A related damning factor was the inability to obtain additional diesel units to increase the capacity of the 2-car diesels operating the service. A year or so ago we hoped the Ashford – Brighton service would be saved by an investment in new bi-mode units but this was not approved by the Department for Transport (DfT).

It should also be noted that the capacity issue (starting to the west of Hastings) still generates a hiatus from Hastings – Eastbourne. To resolve this, it was proposed that a 4-car electric service (running shortly before the 2-car diesel) would take many of the waiting passengers. To add another dimension, the diesel would also stop at some smaller stations which unfortunately has the effect of increasing the travel time to Eastbourne from Rye. So some advantages, some disadvantages but, overall, hopefully positive, certainly better than having to change trains at Hastings.

Unfortunately, DfT approval is required for what has been proposed because of the added Hastings – Eastbourne service (giving them four trains per hour between Hastings and Eastbourne). Many local businesses and local authorities have given their support and this has been enhanced by support from the two MPs along the MarshLink, Amber Rudd and Huw Merriman: we trust, together, the re-structured services and investment will be approved by the DfT. Readers may be pleased to hear nothing more on this long-running saga.


Image Credits: Rye News library .


  1. The natural solution is to effect the change at Hastings, with diesel units of 4 coaches running a twice hourly shuttle service to Ashford. The old platform bay at Hastings can be resuscitated. The change at Eastbourne is too vulnerable to delays and lack of track space there.

  2. Just hope some consideration has been given to long suffering Rye commuters and 2018 timetable keeps the current Ashford connections to HS1 and Charing Cross services.

    This was not case in proposed May 2018 timetable being proposed all journeys from Rye started 10 mins late going to Ashford and 10 mins earlier to Ashford.

    if this change is not sorted out in new proposed timetable it will be far from over for regular Rye commuters.

  3. These proposals do nothing to address the chronic overcrowding on the Ashford – Rye section during the summer months. The running of a four car service during this period (June to September) is essential. It defies belief that Southern have been ‘unable’ to source additional units. Surely it is only a question of laying out the money to buy them. Why doesn’t MLAG ask Southern to detail exactly what efforts they have made in this regard?
    Furthermore, hasn’t it occurred to anyone that we might stop pandering to Southern’s spin doctors’ game of calling the line ‘Marshlink’ as if it is some inessential little branch line? Let’s insist on it being called what it is: the South Coast Main Line.


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