A Potted History of SHRIMP

To find the roots of SHRIMP you have to go back to Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG). BRAG was set up in 2005 in reaction to a proposed plan to curtail the Hastings < > Victoria service at Eastbourne (now starts from Ore). Under the solid stewardship of Brian Hord OBE (ex chair of London Passenger Board – now London Travelwatch) and with a selection of commuters and people with industry experience, BRAG soon developed a network of useful contacts across the rail industry. Hastings Direct offered their facilities for meetings.

The service was saved, sparking the momentum for a wider approach to improvements and dialogue with all aspects of the industry.

Members came, members left but the nucleus, including Martin Woodfine representing Hastings’ interests, remained. Two significant personnel changes occurred. The chairmanship was taken up by Hugh Sharp who had had a long and distinguished career as an economist within the civil service. Ray Chapman MA joined, also representing Hastings, but with a much wider vision and excellent contacts within the travel industry as a whole, not just rail.

In the run-up to the General Election 2010 BRAG invited all 3 main party PPCs to BRAG to discuss issues affecting the Charing Cross / Cannon St, Brighton / Victoria, Ashford services. Conservative PPC Amber Rudd noted the strong connections and influence BRAG had made, and asked if Martin & Ray would set up a parallel lobby group in Hastings.

Thus, St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement – SHRIMP – was born. ‘Turning the Tide for Hastings Railways’.

On Rays bidding, SHRIMP became a mainly social media animal / crustacean.

Amber / Ray had made contact with Christian, an IT specialist, who set up the (first) SHRIMP web-site, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Martin and Ray set about making SHRIMP a recognised stakeholder, going to meetings all over the SouthEast (not always with an invite!) continually drumming home the message that Hastings’ rail connectivity was poor in journey time aspects.

Ashford. Maidstone. Gillingham. Tonbridge. Lewes. Brighton. Croydon. Gatwick. London.

If the rail industry were there, so were we. And we paid (and continue to pay) all our own expenses.

We put prominent local & national politicians on our communication list. Amber Rudd was elected as MP and hit the ground running, using the gathered contacts and her parliamentary position to strengthen the Hastings transport campaign. Meetings were held with BRAG/SHRIMP/MLAG to identify strategies, including the HS1 theory.

We’ve met with every Transport Secretary since 2010. We did not take no as an answer. Thanks to Amber, SHRIMP got into Hansard (17/06/2011).

SHRIMP formed links with other local rail transport campaign groups such as BRAG, Marshlink Action Group (MLAG), Three Oaks and Winchelsea Action for Rail Transport (THWART), Eastbourne Coastway Commuters Group (ECCG); we made associations with groups in areas such as Brighton, Surrey, Deal, Sevenoaks. We became affiliated to the national campaign association RailFuture.

Then the big advance: East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA), an umbrella group. The idea was that whilst the local groups were concentrating on the local issues, there were bigger long-term strategies to set up and push forward, such as the challenge of bringing HS1 services to Hastings and Bexhill via Ashford and Rye, thus reducing – by a significant margin – the j/time from London and creating a regenerative boost to the area.

ESRA, under the drive of Ray, made strides in developing the right contacts and pushing ideas. The Hastings Rail Summits were created. Commitments were sought and obtained. The ‘Amber Expresses’ arrived. HS1 was no longer a pipe-dream – it became a realistic option. The Gatwick night bus 380 was trialled, but alas failed. (However that idea is still live for further discussions).

SHRIMP have had day trips to all manner of industry related places; the new Three Bridges Regional Operations Centre; Selhurst maintenance depot; the D-Trains at Long Marston. We attend industry and county council forums several times a year.

In 2015 the SHRIMP website, based oversees, ran into a technical difficulty and had to shut down. Sorry.

It has recently been re-launched with the help of a new IT-whizz volunteer, Janos, and work is continuing to re-establish the successful social-media links.

BE AWARE: Nothing in the rail industry is as easy as it might appear. There are lots of conflicts, some of which really should not be acceptable and are very frustrating.

What’s next on the Agenda? Over coming weeks a series of articles will be introduced, based on the individual lines; a Charing Cross line article, a Victoria lines article, an HS1 article. These will need to be high-level ie not overly technical, but will give an insight into what is being investigated etc.

But if you like what we try are trying to do and would like to get involved, we would love to hear from you. Keep watching the site for the required links. Let’s keep the tide turning.

SHRIMP, April 2016