A GOVERNMENT freeze on rail franchises has left Rye area commuters in limbo.
It is the main stumbling block to getting improvements on the Rye line said local action group Marshlink when it held its AGM at Rye Town Hall last Friday.
Attending the meeting was Rye MP Amber Rudd and Southern Railway area manager Paul Wyborn.
Marshlink chairman Stuart Harland said: “MLAG has many service changes it wants to see implemented but, for the moment, we are thwarted.
“The DfT suddenly had concerns about their franchise evaluation process and all re-franchising was “paused”.
“This leaves MLAG in limbo wondering how to press forward with our proposals.
“Our MP Amber Rudd discussed the issue with the Minister for Transport and was able to advise that an announcement will be made shortly by the DfT.
“The current franchise has two years to run. Although the franchising process has been paused, it is likely to be resumed shortly with a revised timetable but a management contract during the intervening period.
“The importance of electrification of the line was identified by Amber and members of the audience.
“The MarshLink line is the only line in the area dependent on diesel trains, apart from the Uckfield service.
As warned by an MLAG Committee member, if the line isn’t electrified; if there are no more same-class diesel trains built; if the servicing location for these trains cannot be made more local (trains currently have to be taken to Selhurst for servicing and repairs), then the cost of operating and maintaining these trains is, at some time, likely to become too prohibitive with potential repercussions on the viability of the line.
“Connectivity at Ashford with London trains continued to be an issue. The main concern is the timetabling which could readily be improved if a schedule proposed by MIAG and other action groups was introduced.
“The length of operation of the service needs extending, both earlier and later trains, to take account of the extending working and social day, and also to enable connection to the Eurostar service to the continent.”
Amber Rudd said: “This was a very positive meeting. I am positive we’re making progress.”