More incompetence from Southern


The current crisis at Southern Rail is causing terrible problems for Rye residents but I also wonder what impact it is having on Rye’s economy. Rye has always attracted day trippers and weekenders travelling by train, but my experience might illustrate just how impossible the journey is becoming. As an ex Ryer, and now a frequent visitor to Rye, I thought my last two journeys might illustrate the problem.

Before the new timetable was introduced, I had planned to travel from Clapham Junction to Rye, via Hastings. The Hastings train was cancelled so passengers were advised to get the fast train to Brighton. Sadly, the fast train turned out to be a slow train with several additional stops. This would have resulted in missing the connection but, fortunately in this instance, the Brighton to Ashford train was running late. However, the station staff thought that as it was late, it might terminate at Lewes so we were all encouraged to go to Lewes to pick up the Rye train. The train arrived at Lewes absolutely packed. Cyclists had to give up any attempt at getting on the train whilst the rest of us pushed our way in to one of the two hot stuffy carriages.

Some bemused Germans allowed me to place my bags on top of their suitcases to make a little more room and a Canadian lady, visiting Rye for the first time, asked me if the trains to Rye were always like this. A pregnant woman had to stand as it was impossible for anyone to get up to offer her a seat. At the next stop a woman with a pushchair was unable to get on and was distressed at having to wait another hour, with her baby, for the next train. A couple standing next to me looked at each other and said “whose idea was it to go to Rye for the day?”

But that was all before the new train timetable, so yesterday I went off optimistically to Rye to catch the connection to Brighton. I was surprised to find that the train was stopping at Hastings and had to join a connection to Brighton. The London train was late, so the conductor announced that we would miss the connection but that he would ring through and ask them to hold the train for three minutes. They refused. It was a four carriage train, which he said meant he was dealing with doors as well as sorting out numerous passenger enquiries about the ever changing timetables and stops. He was so upset at not being able to help, that the passengers, instead of being angry, ended up counselling him. Is it any surprise that Southern are short of staff!

Consequently, there was a long wait at Hastings for the Brighton train (good for the economy of Hastings). Once on the train, there was an announcement that the train from Lewes to Brighton had been cancelled and there would therefore be a 45 minute wait for the next train. At this point, a group of passengers despaired and grouped together to get a cab from Lewes to Brighton (good for the economy of Lewes). So congratulations Southern on the new timetable – 2.5 hours to get to Brighton, including the cost of a cab!

Rail minister Claire Perry has resigned, because she was “often ashamed to be the rail minister”. The Government for some reason seems reluctant to strip Southern of their franchise despite an appalling service and an offer from Sadiq Khan that Transport for London could run it.

So what choice do visitors have? Don’t bother to travel to Rye, or drive and cause problems with already overcrowded car parks. Amber Rudd is now in a senior position within Government and one would expect that she would want to ensure that Rye’s tourism does not suffer. I am also sure that as an ex climate secretary she will not want to encourage more cars on the road.

Stuart Harland [Chaiman of the Marsh Link Action Group] is doing a great job but I do wonder if it isn’t time for Rye Town Council, Rother, Chamber of Commerce and the various Festivals to join together to lobby government and Southern for a decent and reliable train service. The current service is truly shocking and could well impact on the tourist season ahead.

Photo: Rye News library

Image Credits: J. Minter .

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  1. Perhaps Southern Rail should stop charging passengers – oh, excuse me, CUSTOMERS – exorbitant fares for this travesty of a “service” until normal timetables, or what passes for normal, are resumed?


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