RYE rail users are pushing for a better deal as the franchise for the line goes up for grabs.
The Rye line is currently operated by Southern but Southern’s franchise to operate trains comes to an end in 2015.
BUt changes could happen before then with the Department for Transport announcing that it wants to merge the Southern rail region with Thameslink by next year.
The new, larger region will be called the Thameslink Region.
Stuart Harland, chairman of Rye rail action group Marshlink, says the group are getting prepared to lobby for improvements.
He said: “If we want to make any impression on the franchise terms, it will require us to submit our comments on what we want to see in the new franchise somewhat earlier than expected, in fact within the next couple of months.”
Five companies are likeley to compete for the tender, including Dutch rail operators Abello; First Thameslink Ltd; MTR Corporation: Stagecoach and Govia. Current operators Southern Railway are part of Govia.
The successful bidder is scheduled to be announced in May 2013, contract commencing September 2013, with a minimum franchise term of seven years. Mr Harland said: “The odd position created by our line being in the current Southern Region with franchise expiring in 2015 is that if Govia, owner of our current operator, Southern Railway, don’t win the new Thameslink Region franchise our line will, during this interregnum period, continue to be operated by Southern Railway. As a lame duck – what will entice them to provide a good service?
Cllr Mary Smith, chair of Rye Town Council’s public services committee and a regular rail user herself, said: “We could use this period to make clear what we would like to see on the Rye rail line.”
Suggestions already put forward include a hail and ride service for Doleham and the other smaller stations and longer trains than the cramped two carriage units currently operating from Ashford to Brighton via Rye.