Lib Dems claim rail service proposals are unacceptable
BEXHILL and Battle Liberal Democrats have come out in support of local rail action groups saying the proposed changes to local rail services are "unacceptable and require significant modifications."
The comments came after Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Mary Varrall attended a meeting with Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG).
At the meeting Mrs Varrall was briefed on proposed changes to services running along the East Coastway between Brighton and Ashford, due to take effect from December, outlined in Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) published on 29th January.
The proposals include replacing the Brighton-Ashford service with two separate services operating between Brighton and Eastbourne and, Eastbourne-Ashford '“ with claims that this would provide more seats overall - and three services an hour on the Ore to Bexhill corridor.
BRAG made its support dependent on amendments being made to the planned timetable, due to their concerns at gaps in the frequency of the Marshlink service.
Mrs Varrall said:"I am alarmed at some of the gaps BRAG have identified in services should there be no further modifications to the draft timetable. Under the proposals there would be a 2 hour gap in through services between Bexhill and Ashford during the morning rush hour.
"This is at exactly the time when passengers would want to be travelling through to Ashford and onwards to London, and would see the loss of the fastest connection to London - the 07.09 from Bexhill which arrives into St Pancras at 08.48. Instead passengers would either have to change at Hastings or take a service to Victoria taking half an hour longer.
"There are 90 minute gaps on Marshlink services to and from Ashford mid evening, which is completely unacceptable. Worse still, the proposals would see no through services between Bexhill and Ashford on Sundays.
"This adds up to a lack of commitment to the Marshlink line and a desire on the part of the train operator to run the minimum service possible. It strikes me that there is a hidden agenda here, ultimately to cut the service back still further just to a Hastings '“ Ashford local service.
"The Lib Dems believe that the future of the line is dependent on building up through traffic and share the objectives of BRAG and other local rail user groups in seeing the line upgraded and electrified - ultimately to see direct high speed services from this area to London via Ashford. This is a regeneration issue as well as a transport issue.
"Network Rail has been dragging its feet for a number of years and postponed undertaking remedial work on the Marshlink line. There are a number of permanent speed restrictions due to poor track conditions '“ one such speed restriction outside Ashford involves trains slowing down to just 30mph. It is more than a mile long, and has been in place for over 15 years!"
Mrs Varrall believes that tackling these infrastructure issues would shorten journey times and improve connections at Ashford.
In a press release Fiona Taylor, Network Rail's route director for Sussex said:
"There is a high frequency of trains already running on the railway in Sussex with few opportunities to run additional trains. So, much of the focus of this strategy is on running longer trains, providing more seats and reducing overcrowding, in order to meet the growth in passenger demand predicted for the coming years.
"There are many challenges ahead, but this strategy will help improve the railway in a way which benefits as many people as possible."
For further information visit the website at: www.networkrail.co.uk