Marshlink rolling stock update


There has been much consternation about aspects of the Marshlink services operated by Southern over the last couple of years since the arrival of Covid, but there is one current issue of concern – the stock operating on the line and apparent reduction in capacity.

In general, for many years the Marshlink was serviced by two-car units and we had a very popular peak hours shuttle service. With the arrival of Covid, our services (but without a peak hours shuttle) were operated by four-car units fairly consistently until very recently when we started to see two-car units again. It is not surprising that this unannounced change has attracted concern.

Southern has said, but we await a formal announcement, that their intention on a long- term basis, is to run three-car units on the Marshlink rather than returning to the two-car units which ran before Covid. However, it is not expected that the shuttle service will be reinstated until a need can be demonstrated.

The work required to change the formation of the units is expected to be completed within this year so probably by the time the new timetable comes into effect in December.

MarshLink Action Group (MLAG) hopes to arrange a general meeting to enable train users to raise their own questions about the future rail service and we will announce a date to members when this has been arranged.


Image Credits: Rye News library .

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  1. There was a message on the next train sign for the 10.48 yesterday (Saturday) saying “This train will be formed of 2 coaches until December 10th”.

  2. There’s something typically British and comedic about this story. Over the past few years people have written about the desire for a high speed train from London to Eastbourne. Yet here we are going back to the dark ages. Now we have less carriages and services and are forced to be cramped due to less seating. And after 2 years of a pandemic where we were supposed to socially distance now we’re being forced to sit on each others lap. Why not go the whole hog and have us sit on top of one carriage or hanging off the sides clinging on for dear life like they do in India during their rush hour?

  3. The high-speed line from London to Eastbourne (via Ashford and Rye) is dead in the water. It was never a viable proposal, whatever the MLAG claims. By their very nature, high-speed trains are only economically feasible on high-use main lines — such as Folkestone/Chunnel to London, or London to Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and so on. Imagine the huge investment needed to upgrade the rail track between Ashford and Eastbourne. The project’s just not going to fly, especially in the current economic situation. Rye’s lucky to have any rail service. What’s really needed is electrification of the current track so that we can do away with polluting diesel trains. I’d be interested to know how much Southern expects to save on running three carriages rather than four on the current diesel service.

  4. What’s really needed is for South Eastern to run the Ashford to Hastings service. For it to stop there and go no further. And for southern to run Hastings and all points West. Beats the absurd split trains to Brighton. Will mean the change at Ashford can be coordinated without two operators blaming the other.

  5. It is not beyond the skills of engineers to produce solar powered trains.
    Network rail has been concentrating its efforts on partnering with privately funded solar farms to put power into the third rail (the majority of the network).
    In Germany they are looking at using hydrogen produced by solar/wind power. In Australia they have a two-car old train converted to battery power with solar panels on the roof. Also it has the ability to plug-in to top up batteries. So, in due course, eventually we might see our trains replaced with rolling stock that isn’t diesel powered.
    As an east-west line, crossing coastal and marsh landscapes, there are ample lengths of south facing trackside land for solar panels. Rapid top up of onboard batteries could be done at Ashford and Hastings or Eastbourne or wherever. Maybe batteries could be changed under the train, off the track, automatically. Maybe future batteries will have enough capacity anyway? Our route has very few inclines, so shouldn’t be too heavy in power usage. The Australian train has power recovery on braking. The technology is developing fast.
    This must offer hope that there could be a clean and efficient future for trains through Rye.

  6. I can understand that having a through train between Ashford and Brighton led to major problems in reliability, so I don’t object to having to change trains, but why are the connections so poor? A direct train between Winchelsea and Rye used to take around 1h20, as I recall. Now, I’m lucky if the return journey takes 2h. It’s quicker going east to west, but why is it so bad travelling from west to east? And the perennial request for every train to stop at Winchelsea please- it would reduce many car journeys currently made.

  7. Don’t be so pessimistic and dismissive Bodwick!
    If you had asked my grandfather if Man would walk on the moon, his answer might have been equally dismissive but we watched it live on TV.
    There was a time when the idea of carrying a telephone around in your pocket was dismissed as ridiculous!
    Not long ago electric cars had a range of 100 miles. Web search and you’ll find that a 12metre long electric bus has travelled more than 500km on a single charge.
    It’s about battery technology and that’s developing fast!!! Solar, wind and regenerative braking all help. There are more than 50 fully electric busses in service in Brighton. (They have small on-board generators to recharge batteries when out of the city centre).
    It’s all evidence of progress and therefore there is hope that we could have clean efficient trains running through Rye. Solar power can play it’s part. Evidence of that is that Network rail is already involved in its development. Search the internet and you’ll see. Wow, what would our grandfather’s have said if we had described the world wide web to them?
    Even on a gloomy day like today there is no need to be pessimistic.

  8. Could I recommend membership of MLAG to the various correspondents. Many of the questions/points raised have been, and continue to be, addressed by MLAG and the speakers invited to the AGM from the likes of Network Rail etc. Stuart and the committee do a great job in lobbying for an improved service and deserve our support. You can find an application form at

  9. Some years back I asked in Rye station why the local trains didn’t coordinate with international departures from Ashford. The reply was ‘we were here first’! A moot point now, of course, since Eurostar doesn’t stop there anymore. At Easter we came back from Paris, zoomed through Ashford, went all the way into St Pancras, then had to catch another high speed train back to Ashford. On arrival we discovered trains to Rye were all cancelled due to signalling issues. So much for joined up transport.


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