Time for High Speed questions


The MLAG (Marsh Link Action Group) will be holding its AGM this Friday April 15, at Rye Town Hall and the formal meeting will start at 7pm with presentations, followed by questions, at around 7:15pm (to allow attendees to get to the meeting by train).

The speakers at the AGM will be:

  • Martin Grier, Head of Drivers, Southern Railway who will be commenting on the past year’s performance, problems (and solutions ?) encountered and, perhaps, MLAG’s objectives;
  • Paul Best, Senior Strategic Planner, Network Rail who will comment on recent infrastructure developments in the area (in particular the MarshLink line). Of particular interest to MLAG at the moment, he is heavily involved in assessing infrastructure requirements that would affect the viability of a direct Javelin service from London to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill. He may also be able to inform us about a consultation that is soon to take place in which views of the public are sought on such matters as the proposed Javelin service;
  • Ray Chapman, Chairman of East Sussex Rail Alliance (of which MLAG is a member) who is a driving force behind bringing the Javelin service to the MarshLink and now a member of the High Speed Working Group recently established to bring this proposal to fruition; and
  • Roger Blake, Director of Railfuture who will have an independent view on rail opportunities and developments (noting that the stated role of Railfuture is “to campaign for a bigger, better railway in Britain”).

Come to the meeting if you have any issues with the current Marsh Link services you’d like to share, or if you want to hear about or comment on the latest proposals for the Javelin service. You may find the current proposals are somewhat different to what they were at last year’s AGM.

Meanwhile, MLAG’s new website (still on www.mlag.org.uk) should be operational by the time of the meeting but is formally still under development


Stuart Harland is Chairman of MLAG. Photo: Rye News Library

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  1. The proposed Javelin train service to Bexhill via Rye and Hastings does not meet with universal approval. The prospect of these towns being added to the ever-growing list of “Commuter Towns” is not one that pleases many residents, and that is precisely what Rye would become. We are, even now, struggling to find affordable accomodation for young people (witness Rye Town Council’s fledgling scheme to start addressing this problem), and house prices continue to rise alarmingly. The saving of a few minutes’ journey time to the Capital can always be achieved by catching an earlier train – or moving closer to one’s place of work!

  2. There is lot talk and spin about big schemes cost up to 150 million pounds please sign my petition at http://marshlinktrains.wordpress.com. Which involving purchasing single recycled train which would enable 4 car peak service between Ashford to Brighton in as little as six months. We need transport schemes that are affordable and can actually be made to happen. Not headline grabbing fantasies that are good photo oportunities.

  3. Those proposing the running of Javelins down the Marshlink clearly have no idea of how the railway works. It is currently not physically possible to route a train directly from HS1 onto Marshlink. To facilitate this you will either need to completely rebuild Ashford Station or undergo two reversals. The former would cost a horrendous amount of money while the time taken for the latter would more than negate any perceived time savings. Then there is the cost of electrifying the Marshlink to allow for the power hungry Javelins.

    Then there are the trains themselves. The Javelin fleet is already stretched to capacity with only a couple of engineering spares not in traffic at peak hours. Add in the fact that the Javelins will not fit into any platform on the Marshlink – four cars is the maximum possible at present and many of the intermediate stations cannot even take four cars. Javelins are currently not fitted with Selective Door Opening so that means either lengthening all platforms along the line or reprogramming the electronics on the Javelins to allow for SDO if it’s even feasible. That would be followed by an intensive period of testing and staff training. That all costs and takes time.

    Finally, there are numerous electrification schemes that are either in progress and running late or still on the drawing board. And those benefit a much greater number of travellers than would ever benefit from an electrified Marshlink with a token service to/from London.

    Anything that involves infrastructure work would almost certainly mean endless weekends of disruption, rail replacement buses or even block closures of say a month or two at at a time. Just go and ask passengers on the London to Uckfield line how much disruption and closures that they have endured just to lengthen a few platforms to allow for ten-car trains.

    And all this is before the bean counters at the Department for Transport get their hands on the proposal and start asking for fully costed business cases, wanting to know the cost:benefit ratio and the like. So the likelihood of this proposal”jumping the queue” is almost zero. And the end of the queue is around 2030 at present – that’s not even factoring in the HS3 proposal link major northern cities announced at the last Budget.

    Perhaps those seeking an improved service would be better placed focusing on matters such as improved connections at Ashford and injecting more resilience into the existing service.

  4. I cannot understand the negativity directed towards this scheme; most towns would give their eye teeth for this kind of investment. I am not retired and pop to town one or two times a week and wholeheartedly support it. At £70.80 per day per ticket, there is no danger of this becoming a commuter town. Surely, the availability of such a service would secure young people in employment to come and reside in the town who cannot afford to live in London and its environs? or encourage Ryers to remain here and not have “to move closer to ones place of work”. I would respectfully add that catching an earlier train does not either preserve the work/life balance or is practicable when one works in the City where business hours do not follow the traditional 9-5. The town has neither the interest or the capacity to evolve into a “commuter town” but the train service would provide freedom of choice and opportunity for employment and leisure to existing Rye residents , in addition to appealing to future ones.

  5. Paul and Keith, particularly, make very valid comments. Having suffered at the hands of SouthernRail last Sunday attending the Brighton Marathon I feel both operators and network need to learn to walk before they run. Let’s see some trains with sufficient capacity, sensible integrated timetabling, staff trained in communication skills and a booking office that opens when advertised before we start thinking about unachievable ideals

  6. It may have been useful for some correspondents to have attended the MLAG AGM (as advertised in Rye News) which may have helped inform their opinion and ask their questions. Amongst the speakers was a senior planner from Network Rail who are soon to make their proposals for infrastructure investments for the project including to significantly modify the track layout at Ashford and to extend the existing passing loop at Rye. The Ashford works are indeed significant (and likely to cost a significant part of the overall cost of the whole works) but are expected to include modifications to improve the existing Kent Javelin route into Ashford.

    With the recent development in hybrid and bi-mode trains (and, it has to be acknowledged, the backlog in existing track electrification works), it may now not be necessary to electrify the line to get a Javelin service to London and a second train per hour. That is currently under investigation.

    The length of trains and station platforms are other matters but (in comparison with the other infrastructure issues) not insurmountable. Nationally, the Javelin fleet can be expected to increase significantly and not just into St. Pancras: and that is likely to include bi-mode Javelins.

    I hope next week’s Rye News will include a report of the MLAG AGM which would enlarge on these issues.


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