(as issued to Observer Group, 14th May) JOINT STATEMENT FROM RAIL ACTION GROUPS

It is only a matter of days until the most comprehensive changes to rail timetable changes in decades comes into effect; Sunday May 20th. Both our local operators – Southern p/o Govia Thameslink Railway and South Eastern – are making changes, although those being introduced by Southern are the most widespread, affecting every single train on the Ashford>Rye> Hastings>Bexhill>Eastbourne> Brighton & London Victoria routes.

This follow a series of public consultation and several meetings between the operators and rail user groups from Rye to Normans Bay, whose primary role was to develop a better service pattern, whilst keeping an eye on key local impacts – such as essential school service stops.

The overall benefits are huge with additional services, more capacity, better connectivity & new journey opportunities. For many stations for most of the day connections with High Speed services are introduced or improved with shorter wait times at Ashford. It is acknowledged that there will be some negatives, but the gain to the whole region heavily outweighs those. Some of these may be negated by changes to other service patterns, notably on the Brighton Main Line via Gatwick Airport where there have been persistent capacity issues.

It is important to recognise that the train operators have developed the actual timings, having had to juggle the new service patterns to fit in with infrastructure restrictions and inter-operational requirements. The two operators have liaised closely and, wherever possible, increased capacity on other services to meet anticipated demand or travel plan changes.

The changes go beyond just alterations to the train services. In the background are amendments to the way the network actually operates ie train working patterns and crew rosters, all designed to create a more robust service. One of the key factors of this is to eliminate, as far as possible, the far-reaching knock-on effects from an incident on one route to another.

With the agreement of Southern, representatives of the user groups will be roaming the network in the opening week or so, to see how the new service pattern settles in, if & how passengers change their travel plans, and to spot any unexpected issues that arise from the Law of Unintended Consequences.

There will be a meeting with Southern in late June to review the progress and, if necessary, seek tweaks where required. The user-groups and Southern are aware that there are some short-comings, notably on Sundays which are unavoidable due to national operating restraints but these will be targeted for further review.

If you have not checked your new timings etc, you are strongly advised to do so. Everything changes. The new details are available on the operator websites, national journey planners, and pocket timetables available at stations.

Hugh Sharp, Bexhill Rail Action Group (and group chair)
Stuart Harland, Marshlink Action Group
Nicholas Munro, Normans Bay Residents Association
Trevor Davies, Ore Transport Group,
Martin Woodfine, St Leonards & Hastings Rail Improvement
John Spencer, Three Oaks & Winchelsea Action on Rail Transport
In association with RailFuture (SouthEast)