A couple of weeks ago we published figures from MLAG on the numbers of passengers being left on station platforms because our two-carriage trains were insufficient to take everybody. Southern Rail asked for the right to reply to this, which Rye News was happy to give them.
In their reply they explained the shortage of diesel trains, where extra four carriage units would have to come from, and why they weren’t available on a daily basis. They also said that it was not possible to put two existing two carriage units together because there was no corridor at the junction of the two units that would enable passengers to move from one to another (does that matter? And if so, why?) they also said another reason was that some stations could not accommodate a four carriage train – although as there is at least one station that can accommodate only one carriage of a two carriage train I am at a loss to see why an extra two carriages should make any difference. Surely passengers, as now, can be told which carriage will be the one to be accessible to the platform.
Their reply also did not touch on the question of late and cancelled trains. Cancellations due to mechanical problems are, we are told, becoming fewer, but that has not stopped a number of services, including the important shuttle service to Ashford’s high speed line being cancelled at very short notice in the last week or two.
There are few decent and fast roads leading to Rye and many residents rely on the railway not only to provide an efficient means of transport to and from their place of work, but also to provide the life blood of the town, our visitors, and not to leave them stranded on Ashford or Hastings stations.
Our MP, Amber Rudd has, for the last few years, conducted an annual Rail Summit with a view to resolving some of the problems. Although indications have been given that high speed trains will, in a year or two, travel through to Hastings via Rye, we have not yet heard of any detailed planning or funding with a firm and believable timescale attached to it. She has also made representations to the Department for Transport for bi-mode trains to be supplied that could use both the electrified and non-electrified parts of the Marsh Link but this has been turned down by the Treasury. Treasury approval is necessary because all of the Southern Rail region is a nationalised railway and merely managed, on behalf of government, by Southern. The Treasury, therefore, would be required to foot the bill and it is consequently inevitable that, whatever the colour of the government in power, the railway will, except for a few prestige projects, be starved of investment. Older readers especially those who commuted to work – may remember the old, often pre-war, overcrowded, often filthy and sometimes unsafe trains of the ’60s and ’70s.
However, maybe a solution is on the horizon.
Rye News was passed a document the other day from the MarshLink Commuter Group which detailed a large number of modern trains, both electric and diesel, that were soon to come off lease from other train companies around the country – there is apparently a glut of rolling stock in the offing. The report refers to the individual units only by their type identification number so, not being an ardent trainspotter, this writer cannot tell which are electric and which are not. Almost certainly the majority will be electric, but with such a large number coming free, there surely must be some diesel units amongst them.
So now is your chance, Amber. Get your researchers to find out which of these units would work on our line (MLAG might even be able to tell you) and persuade your colleague at the DfT (who, let’s be frank, has so far shown every sign, since being in post, of a complete absence of anything resembling a backbone) to bid for these trains so that commuters, general users and tourists can receive the service they – and the rest of us taxpayers – pay for and deserve.
Photo: Rye News library
Image Credits: J. Minter .