Join forces to protect rail service

Re: ‘Fury at weekend of chaos on trains’ and ‘An appalling rail service’.

C Cassidy of Crowhurst makes some very valid points about the current position of the Hastings-London Cannon Street rail service via Battle and Tunbridge Wells (Observer Letters 26/1/14).

The East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) has adopted a three-pronged approach to combat the problems experienced on this popular, vital direct rail service to the City, operated by Southeastern:

To retain the direct Hastings - Cannon Street commuter rail service which was under threat in 2009, with Network Rail proposing its truncation at London Bridge from 2014. As reported previously in the Observer, after a sustained, vigorous campaign implemented over almost two years, we received confirmation from the Department of Transport in May last year that this direct service to Cannon Street would be retained for the foreseeable future - but with the proviso that there could be short-term diversions from Cannon Street during the 2014-2018 rebuild of London Bridge Station

To emphasise relentlessly, via our MPs, to Network Rail - who are responsible for the infrastructure of the line - that improvements must be made to the infrastructure of the line south of Tunbridge Wells, and that those improvements must be made NOW. It is unacceptable to expect passengers to pay premium fares to the train operator (Southeastern) without proper investment and support given to the railway’s infrastructure by Network Rail.

In the short term, while we accept that there are logistical problems with running a railway through London Bridge during the four years needed for the station’s complete re-build, it makes no sense at all to divert the busiest 06.39 Hastings - Cannon Street service to Charing Cross, especially when there are only three direct trains each morning from Hastings and Battle to Cannon Street.

Last week, ESRA leafleted commuters who boarded the 06.39 Hastings-Cannon Street train at all stations south of Tunbridge Wells with a flyer urging them to give their opinion to Southeastern’s proposed change to the January 2015 timetable, before the deadline of Friday February 7.

It is now up to everyone to join forces and speak up forcefully in order to ensure that all three direct Hastings - Cannon Street services via Battle are protected - both in the short and longer term. Email us - before the Friday February 7 deadline - with your views concerning the proposed timetable change to the 06.39 Ore-Cannon Street service from January 2015, at and we will forward your views to Southeastern, to our MPs and to Network Rail.

Ray Chapman, Yolanda Laybourne, Martin Woodfine

East Sussex Rail Alliance