Marshlinktrains asked Andrew Wood, Network Rail lead development manager southern region about HS1 to Hastings, hybrid trains and Rye shuttles. Here are his responses.
HS1 to Hastings
This initiative is now part of Kent and East Sussex coastal connectivity programme, which includes options to improve the rail service to Thanet and Dover as well as Hastings and Bexhill. Essentially the programme proposes additional services on HS1 and where these trains should go, in the peak, but also in the off peak. Network Rail has produced advice to government in the form of a strategic outline business case that compares the merits of the different options. Whilst the Dover option has the strongest case (‘high’ value for money), the full upgrade of the Marshlink, as opposed to a more partial upgrade, has the better case although this does represent a lower ‘medium’ value for money. Despite the scale of the benefits for this option, the enduring issue is affordability of the scheme owing to government finance being very tight now, and the capital cost is very large. The Department for Transport is preparing advice to ministers, so we await to see what government wishes to fund and take forward.
Battery powered trains
Discussions are ongoing regarding the viability of battery powered trains on the Marshlink line, initially to replace existing diesel traction but also in the future as potentially part of any direct service from St Pancras.
Initial investigation has revealed the Marshlink line could be a very good candidate for this technology, with sufficient running on the electrified network to charge the batteries over the unelectrified section. However we need to check that the existing network can provide sufficient power, and we are seeking funding to explore this.
Finally, regarding shuttles, train services offered on today’s network are a matter for train operators in liaison with government that is supporting them. I am aware the Rye shuttles have been withdrawn during the pandemic owing to commuting volumes being just 30% of pre-pandemic volumes. The hope is, should commuting volumes recover, that these trains can then be reintroduced.
Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy .