At the Marsh Link Action Group (MLAG) AGM on Tuesday June 18, attendees received updates from Network Rail on the proposed reconfiguration of the lines at Ashford International and from Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR) on on-going service reliability challenges.
Network Rail provided a recap on proposed track works at Ashford, which are championed by both Amber Rudd MP and ESCC, which would allow HS1 trains from St Pancras to run on to Hastings and Bexhill via Rye.
The original proposal (covered in Rye News) was to reconfigure the lines to allow for St Pancras HS1 trains to arrive at platform 2 at Ashford International and then onwards on the Marsh Link line to Hastings and Bexhill. On investigation, the difficulty of doing this became clear to the transport planners. It included the need to close Ashford completely for nine days and overhaul the signalling. The complexity and increased cost has led Network Rail to investigate an alternative solution. This involves building a new platform between platforms 2 and 3 in the space currently used by freight lines. While Network Rail’s presenter Andrew Wood was at pains to emphasise that it is still at the idea stage, the potential capacity benefits of this could be felt across the wider south east. ESCC have therefore asked them to explore this option and we hope to hear if it’s feasible before the end of the summer.
The AGM also received a presentation from Southern Rail’s James Harris who gave an overview on the poor punctuality of the Mash Link line. With 29 cancellations last month and a punctuality rate hovering around 50% the line scored badly. James recognised this was not good enough for a service where onward connections are a vital part of the service. On a positive note James confirmed that extra trains will be introduced on the line during summer weekends to ensure holidaymakers aren’t stranded at the station, as they were last year. James also announced that from December 2019 the 7.16am shuttle service would be brought forward and leave at 7.06 to allow Rye commuters to catch a 12-car train at Ashford International on to London.
The AGM was deftly chaired by MLAG Chair, Stuart Harland, who announced that the committee would welcome new members. If you are interested and have a passion for trains email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Amber Rudd this week hosted Network Rail in Parliament to press for progress of the high speed rail project in Hastings and Rye.
Speaking after the meeting, Amber Rudd commented:
“Making good on my commitment to bring better rail services for our constituents is one of my top priorities.
“We must press ahead with this project and I will be hosting further summits with Network Rail as well as local bodies including our Councils and Chambers of Commerce to discuss the best steps from here.
“People in Hastings & Rye should know that as their MP I will always take their concerns to the very heart of government, ensuring they get the best possible deal from government.
“I will continue to push for the rail improvements we need.”
The Transport Secretary committed the Government’s support for examining the track layout changes needed for direct journeys and said that the Department for Transport will jointly fund development work for the proposed track layout changes with local authorities.
During the meeting, Amber discussed the outcome of the feasibility study with Andrew Wood, Senior Commercial Scheme Sponsor South East Route for Network Rail, and Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird, Amber Rudd.