There will be no trains running between Ashford and Hastings this coming May Day Bank Holiday weekend, May 1 to 3 – instead there will be a bus replacement service and this follows bus replacement services operating over the previous two weekends.
This creates problems for visitors, especially those with luggage, push chairs, etc to the extent it is a disincentive to travel – and those who do travel will be much more densely packed in buses compared with when using our current 4-car trains, so there is also a public health consideration.
Inevitably, the number of visitors will be reduced along the whole of the MarshLink which will be a huge blow to retailers in our towns who have only recently re-opened.
MarshLink Action Group (“MLAG”) is advised by Southern and Network Rail the reason for the closure over the Bank Holiday is for works at Ore Tunnel, but it is not known whether this is routine or unscheduled, urgent work. From MLAG’s point of view, if this is scheduled, routine maintenance, the timing is unreasonable on a line where the Bank Holidays are by far the busiest times of the year – and, of all years, when large numbers will want to head to the coast to celebrate spring and warmer weather.
The number of people travelling on trains is well down on pre-pandemic levels and this may be the case over these three weekends too – but we do not know. We and others want to promote the MarshLink as a tourist line to encourage more use, but it is difficult for MLAG and local Councils to do this if the line is to be regularly shut on busy weekends.
We trust this will not be the case and will discuss further work schedules with Network Rail. We understand works have already been scheduled for the weekend of 15/16 May and a weekend in June – and MLAG will raise the timing of scheduled works with Southern and Network Rail more formally.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .