Press release about line closure – issued 18 October, 2011 16:33

PRESS RELEASE

Date: 18 October 2011
re: Maintenance works force line closure for 9 weeks

It is now over two weeks since MarshLink Action Group’s public meeting with Network Rail (“NR”) and Southern Railway (“SR”). Following that meeting there were four significant questions outstanding, in essence:

1. Is there a way of running a shuttle service between Rye (or, indeed, Three Oaks) and Ashford ?
MLAG believes there is a mothballed servicing depot at Chart Leacon which could temporarily replace SR’s facility at Selhurst. If this could be re-opened there would be a need to bus service staff from Selhurst to Ashford to perform their work but we believe this is far less of an upheaval than busing all SR’s passengers for 9 weeks. Time is running out to put this in place if it is a feasible option.

2. What replacement bus services are being provided ?
SR says it intends to run its eastwards services to connect with High Speed rail services from Ashford. It is also anticipated there will be two buses per hour. This raises question about individual buses being over-crowded (since they are only 50-seaters) particularly at peak times. Most vulnerable are school children and the question asked is whether more buses can run at these peak times.

3. How many shifts will be working over the 9 week blockade period ?
NR seems fairly certain that the closure of the tunnel (or blockade as they call it) will be for 9 weeks. MLAG is hopeful that, since the works have been scheduled for a long time then the time it takes to do the work can be reasonably predictable and there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises. But how many shifts of work will there be and, indeed, how many workers will be involved. The question was raised at the public meeting but there was no answer.

4. Will season ticket holders receive a discount ?
Season tickets were purchased with the expectation of a reasonable/ normal train service but this is not going to be the case for this 9 weeks. So will season ticket holders receive a discount ? A similar question can be raised on behalf of normal daily passengers – will the ticket price be reduced to account for the service being a bus service. As an additional consideration, a refund is payable by SR if a train is delayed by over 30 minutes. We have not yet seen the timetable for the bus service but it will inevitably be slower than the train and a discount should apply to take account of this.

These four questions have been put to NR and SR by our local MPs from affected constituencies – Amber Rudd, Gregory Barker and Damian Green. Answers are awaited. But another issue has to be considered:

5. Will the bus replacement service coincide with Highways Agency roadworks on the A259 ?
MLAG understands that there may be a clash at the start of the blockade period and wonders what the effect will be on bus timetables. This needs to be investigated.

Stuart Harland
Chairman
MarshLink Action Group

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