1. Bus replacement service on the MarshLink
Passengers on the MarshLink line have now had more than a week’s experience of the replacement bus service resulting from the blockade on the entire line between Ashford and Hastings. It is somewhat fortunate that the weather has been reasonably good over this period although this remains a continuing concern.
Another concern, soon perhaps to be a realised, relates to the effect of road works along the A259 on the replacement bus service: road works start again on 23 January. In summary, the works are:
– Winchelsea to Rye – these are overnight works over 4 weeks and so should only have an effect at the two ends of the day;
– Rye to Guldeford – these too should take 4 weeks but are throughout the day with supervised two-way traffic signals and could involve some diversions via Camber; and
– Woolpack Corner to Brookland.
The route taken by the replacement buses is expected to remain along the Military Road and so via Appledore Station. However, MLAG’s concern has been and continues to be the route buses take when leaving Rye Station. At the moment buses exit the car park at Rope Walk and turn right at the small roundabout into Cinque Ports Street and then rejoin at Station Approach. The concern is that this could be a very congested route when the A259 works re-start. MLAG would prefer buses to turn around in the car park area and then leave via Station Approach but representations on this route have not been viewed positively. If Cinque Ports Street does become more congested MLAG will make further representations to change this part of the route.
2. Bridge works at Three Oaks and Doleham
The bridges at Three Oaks and Doleham will be closed at some time during the blockade period for extensive works. MLAG has been told by Network Rail that residents will receive individual letters about the works to be undertaken on the two bridges and their timing. Quite reasonably, Network Rail are keen that the residents are advised first.
3. What happens when the works are completed?
Looking forward to the end of the blockade and what will happen then with train services, this has not been put to Southern yet but we imagine:
– for the period until the end of the current timetable period in May, the schedule will revert to the one prior to the blockade;
– we will be pushing for the next timetable from May to be based on the faster line speed we understand much of the work undertaken will achieve; – when the new franchise comes into effect in 2013 (and after a new level crossing has been installed at Winchelsea Station, the final piece of the jigsaw to upgrade line speeds) MLAG will be pushing for two trains per hour along the whole route.
4. New franchise period
The current franchise ends in 2013. MLAG believes that the franchise areas are due to change with our region being merged with Thameslink (but some lines near London will be re-allocated to other regions). This is a matter for the Department for Transport and we do not know what consultation will take place on this proposal. But MLAG (in cooperation with other adjoining passenger action groups under the title East Sussex Rail Alliance) is now formulating its pre-requisites for the new franchise. There is a long way to go with this yet but MLAG will include two trains per hour on the MarshLink line as a requirement. MLAG together with ESRA will be looking to meet with the pre-qualified bidders for the franchise at the earliest opportunity. These are early days but things move fast and we need to be ahead of the game in discussions.
5. MLAG Annual General Meeting
There are a lot of things happening which members of MLAG should be made aware of and join in the debate on policy. With this in mind, the MLAG AGM has been set for 7.15pm on Wednesday 14 March at The George Hotel in Rye. This timing is intentionally so that, we trust, all the negative blockage issues will have been resolved (the works having been completed). We can therefore concentrate on the positive issues related to the blockage, in particular the benefits of potentially faster line speeds. With this in mind Network Rail and Southern Railways have accepted our invitation to the meeting.
MarshLink Action Group