Overcrowded train is ‘putting pupils at risk’


A former teacher says she is concerned for the safety of school children travelling on an overcrowded commuter train between Hastings and Bexhill.

Robyn Nicolaou says she has seen passengers push pupils as they try to pile on the two-carriage train – with some children struggling to get on at all.

The Ashford to Brighton service, which leaves Hastings at 8.09am, is caught by several pupils who attend St Richards Catholic College in Bexhill.

Commuter Robyn, from St Leonards, says the situation is reaching a critical level.

The 29-year-old said: “The problem is between Hastings and Bexhill.

“By the time it gets to St Leonards, it’s absolutely full to the point people are pushing each other out to get in.

“It’s getting to the point that the conductor is constantly putting announcements out to make people move down the aisles because there is not enough room and people are crushed up against the doors.”

She added: “The commuters seem to be getting a little bit more irate.

“It seems to have gotten worse over the last year or so.

“You also get members of the public getting on the train, not knowing how bad it is, and start shouting and swearing, which is something you don’t want the children to hear.”

Robyn, who used to teach at St Leonards Academy but now works in Eastbourne, says she has seen mums with pushchairs and young children stranded on the platform because there is not enough room to get on the train.

Some people are so concerned about the risk posed to the St Richard’s pupils travelling on the 8.09 that they have set up a Facebook page to highlight the issue.

The page, called Save The Railway Children, brands the service ‘disgusting’, adding ‘we need to stand up for all of the people that make this journey before someone gets hurt’.

Robyn and a number of her fellow commuters have complained to train operator Southern, which runs the service.

The Observer has seen letters dating back to 2009 from commuters begging Southern to add an extra carriage to the service to no avail.

Robyn said: “It’s just excuse after excuse.

“We asked about adding an extra carriage and their response was they could not put it on that route because there’s a bridge which would not facilitate another carriage.”

Southern told the Observer there were no spare diesel trains ‘in the country’ available to lengthen the service.

A Southern spokesman said: “We know these train are very busy but there simply aren’t any spare diesel trains available anywhere else in the country for us to use to lengthen trains on the Marshlink route. These trains have to be powered by diesel engines due to the route they take and the only other route we use diesels on is the Uckfield Line.

“These Uckfield trains are full and standing for most of the time during the morning peak, so it is not possible to transfer trains from the Uckfield Line to the Marshlink Line as more people would lose than those who would benefit.”