Chaos reigns on the trains as landslip saga continues

The scene of the landslip at Wadhurst.
The scene of the landslip at Wadhurst.

FURIOUS train passengers were forced to endure a weekend of delays and cancellations after yet another landslip caused havoc on the Hastings to London line.

Heavy rainfall triggered a fresh landslip on the line at Wadhurst last Friday afternoon (January 17), with replacement bus services drafted in to ferry commuters home.

But exasperated passengers slammed train operator Southeastern for not putting on enough buses, leaving some people stranded at Tunbridge Wells station for more than three hours.

The disruption continued over the weekend as Network Rail battled to fix the landslips at Wadhurst, which have caused ongoing problems on the line between Hastings and Tonbridge for the past month.

And although the company says it is now beginning to make progress, it has warned passengers that it could be another month before the work is completed.

An emergency timetable has already been put in place, with alterations to services and speed restrictions.

But Network Rail says it hopes to reassess the restrictions next week.

Camilla Corner, of Battle, had her weekend plans ruined by the problems on the line.

She said: “I was very disappointed not to be able to go up to London having booked my ticket - which cost almost £80 - for the London Coliseum months ago.

“But on Saturday morning I looked online and all the trains were cancelled with no full service until Monday morning.

“I know I could have gone via Bexhill to Victoria and then a tube ride but this would have meant more than six hours travelling and no guarantee that I would get back easily.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “It has been a difficult time for passengers on the Hastings to Tonbridge line and we appreciate their patience.

“The landslip site at Wadhurst suffered more damage on Friday under torrential rain, which meant we had to clear debris from the track and reinforce the bottom of the cutting side. The deluge of mud also caused the signalling system to fail.

“However, good progress has since been made with building a temporary road to the location, enabling us to bring heavy machinery to the top of the railway. This week, that machinery will begin reprofiling the steep side of the cutting, to make it less likely to fail in future.

“We know how frustrating these past weeks have been for everyone and we are doing all we can to get things back to normal.”

Passengers have been quick to criticise Southeastern for its response on Friday.

Bob Widdecombe said: “Why did it take three hours 20 minutes for buses to arrive at Tunbridge Wells?

“The first bus arrived at 18.20, why did Southeastern trains not advise us to go via Ashford in the evening rush hours instead of thousands of us trying to get on a bus after a long wait at Tunbridge Wells?

“My commute took five hours from London to Hastings - why are the government proposing to extend the franchise of Southeastern trains without an official tendering and competition process?”

Mike Gibson, public affairs manager for Southeastern, said: “Unfortunately bus operators do not have a fleet of buses on standby and this is particularly difficult during peak periods, which was the case on Friday afternoon.

“There was also a major road accident on the A21 which delayed buses even further. We apologise to all affected customers and understand it was an extremely problematic journey home. All passengers whose journeys were delayed by 30 minutes or more are entitled to compensation.”

This week Southeastern released a statement claiming it had gained record-breaking passenger satisfaction scores with 84 per cent of passengers satisfied with train services - a claim some have taken issue with.

One businessman said: “Is the record breaking for lowest satisfaction yet? The winter has been awful. So much business lost due to Southeastern and Network Rail.”