Do I detect the smell of a general election in the air? We have an ‘absolute commitment’ that we will have a high speed train link on the Marshlink line. The question is when and the answer is sometime after 2024. So the whole current plan to improve our trains rests on a plan that will not start for 10 years.
The South Central franchise, of which the Marshlink is part, has been with Southern since 2001 and runs out in July 2015. Southern have had this franchise for 14 years and we have seen very limited improvements; the Rye rush hour shuttle and more trains stopping at Winchelsea and Three Oaks. The Rye shuttle is regularly cancelled as there is a shortage of diesel trains and it is unlikely that any more will be purchased.
From 2001 to 2013 rail fares have increased by 80%, the RPI by 66% and the CPI 40%. Southern have made enormous profits from the rail travelling public. Besides fares, rail franchisees receive grants from government, which comes from our taxes. Southern’s investment and future planning has been minimal. The only investment of note was the repair of the Ore tunnel and sundry work carried out while the Hastings to Ashford line was closed. This work was funded by Network Rail.
It is about time we had a realistic plan for the line from Eastbourne to Ashford. It is an important transport artery and any improvement would increase the prosperity of businesses and people in this area.
The line needs to be upgraded to dual track and electrified now in order to meet the current requirements of rail travellers with additional carriages, when necessary. Trains will not need to go to Selhurst, for refuelling and repairs. This must be the aim and not some pie in the sky high speed service in 10+ year’s time.
If a new franchisee cannot or will not offer this, the franchise should go the way of the East Coast line and be run by the Department of Transport.
When the service is back under public control again our friendly staff will not then be asked to make continual apologies for the inadequacies of the service.
Ray Prewer, Oak Cottage, Traders Passage, Rye.