Investigation launched into train derailment

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THE RAIL Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has launched an investigation to find out what caused a train to derail on the Hastings to London Charing Cross line, causing major disruption to passengers.

The diesel freight locomotive came off the tracks just south of the Mountfield Tunnel at around 3pm last Wednesday (April 25).

All services between Robertsbridge and Hastings were immediately suspended and a replacement bus service was put in place by train operator Southeastern.

But angry commuters slammed the poor condition of the buses, and there were reports of buses breaking down and drivers having to be directed by passengers.

It took nearly 24 hours for a crane to arrive to re-rail the train and the line was finally reopened at 3.30pm on Thursday - only to be closed again just 30 minutes later when a tree fell on the track at Mountfield.

And there was a further headache for commuters last Friday morning, when a signalling problem caused delays and cancellations between Robertsbridge and Hastings.

On Thursday evening, Hastings MP Amber Rudd spent much of her journey on the 7.15pm train from London Charing Cross listening to complaints from disgruntled passengers.

Ms Rudd said: “To be honest I found that passengers are not unreasonable if there is a tree on the line, but Southeastern needs to be better at getting out more information. You cannot give out enough information.

“I work very closely with SHRIMP (St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme), which also puts information out on Twitter, which is useful.

“Our long-term strategy is to make sure we get a better franchise for Hastings, which means more fast trains.”

Ms Rudd also vowed to speak to Southeastern about the condition of the buses provided for passengers.

A spokesperson for Southeastern said: “The bus company tell us that they encountered an issue when needing to access Frant.

“The bus the company was using for this service was a double-decker and the driver said that because of the height of the vehicle they were not be able to access part of the town, so he needed to go to the depot to change over to a single-deck bus in order to get these passengers to their destination.

“Regarding the service problems, Network Rail gave us the ‘all clear’ to commence running a train service at around 3.30pm after the line between Robertsbridge to Hastings was cleared from the freight train derailment.

“Trains started running again, only to encounter problems 30 minutes later near Mountfield after a large tree fell onto the tracks, blocking the line in both directions.

“Our trains were delayed while Network Rail worked to clear the line by 5.54pm.

“The delays on the network were also compounded by a fatality further up on the Sevenoaks line at Chelsfield late Thursday afternoon.

“On Friday some services were delayed between Robertsbridge and Hastings due to a signalling issue.”