1970s rolling stock move risks alienating Bexhill passengers

WHEN Bexhill's merry band of commuters won a timetable change to incorporate the fast Javelin service to Kings Cross and St Pancras, nobody considered the trade-off that would follow.

Southern's plans to swap its current 21st century rolling stock with 1976 class 313s operating out of Eastbourne has lost the rail operator any confidence it may have won with this timetable change.

Bexhill itself will still be served with the distinctive modern trains, but any resident wanting to travel beyond Eastbourne may find themselves with a much bumpier and slower ride.

The class 313s are just not suitable for the southern coastway routes.

Not only do they lack toilets and facilities for the disabled, they only reach a top speed of 75mph as compared with the 100mph top speed of the 21st century models.

The antiquated class 313s were not designed for rural and semi-rural train travel with longer times between stations.

Instead they were modelled on the Tube to run metro-style shorter stop routes such as those through Greater London, where they are currently used.

This move, along with the change at Eastbourne to go to Brighton and the inconvenience to disabled passengers having to cross the track at Hampden Park - the busiest level crossing in Europe - will confuse many.

And as the clean, bright, modern trains have become synonymous with Southern services, the rail operator not only risks alienating commuters but undermining its own marketing brand.