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 .