A rail group is calling on Southern to bring in new trains in a bid to tackle overcrowding on the Eastbourne to Ashford line.
Ray Chapman, co-chairman of East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA), said: “We must resolve the chronic overcrowding on the South Coast diesel train.
“We are now requesting urgently that train operator Southern and the Department for Transport bring in the newly-launched VivaRail Class 230, three coach diesel sets.
“These would immediately overcome the lack of trains and the excessive overcrowding of the two-car trains on the Ashford-Eastbourne-Brighton service.
“Regional travellers are continually faced with massive service shortcomings which are being now complicated further by the Southern train staff shortage and strike crisis.
“Many irregular rail users do not realise that the electric four car trains are frequently being cancelled or might be terminated at Eastbourne, resulting at times in just one two-car diesel train per hour, running between Eastbourne and Hastings.”
ESRA says the new trains offer faster acceleration than the current Class 171 Diesel sets used by Southern.
The groups says they also cost less, are powered by highly efficient environmentally-friendly engines and also offer a quieter, more comfortable experience for the traveller.
Each three-coach Class 230 has a capacity of 160 plus passengers.
Mr Chapman added: “We have examined these trains and they provide a near ideal interim solution for Marshlink services, until the upgrade of the line is completed – which will bring high speed Javelins from St Pancras International through Ashford, to Rye, Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne.
“The new Class 230 trains are finished to a high standard by a team of very experienced rail engineers who have an established track record of transforming other rail services in the UK, and who clearly understand what passengers really need.”
A spokesperson for Southern said: “While we fully acknowledge that services on the Marshlink Line can get very busy at times, unfortunately, there simply aren’t any spare trains available anywhere in the country to strengthen the existing service.
“Although we can appreciate that a new fleet of Class 230 trains would be welcomed by ESRA and our passengers, there are many reasons why this class of train would not be suitable for the route.
“Most of these are to do with performance and comfort.
“We also recognise that our service isn’t good at the moment.
“Aside from infrastructure and other issues which affect us on a daily basis, our services continue to be seriously affected by train crew availability.
“As well as a high level of conductor sickness - a one hundred per cent increase - driver sickness has also risen at certain depots - a 40 per cent increase.
“This, combined with reluctance by drivers at some locations to work overtime on top of their standard four-day working week, is leaving us with a shortfall of train crew which is seriously compromising our ability to run a robust train service on a day-to-day-basis.”
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