Line closure set to cause travel chaos

Ore Station 13/9/11'Mount Pleasant Tunnel.
Ore Station 13/9/11'Mount Pleasant Tunnel.

COMMUTERS to London via Ashford are bracing themselves for more than two months of rail chaos as last ditch attempts to persuade Southern to put on extra trains failed.

There will be no trains at all running from Hastings to Ashford for nine weeks of engineering work. Instead passengers, including school children and commuters, face long coach journeys.

To make matters worse there are major roadworks taking place on the A259 at the same time.

The line closure is necessary due to works being carried out on the Ore Tunnel (pictured).

Southern has come under pressure from MP Amber Rudd and local authorities at Hastings and Rother to at least run some trains during the work. But Southern remains adamant that this is not possible.

Stuart Harland, chairman of rail action group Marshlink, said: “Despite our efforts it has not been possible to dislodge Southern from this position.

“Alternative strategies, such as de-mothballing a depot just outside Ashford Station to act as a maintenance and refuelling facility, have been rejected as unacceptable. The response is that they are not feasible, too expensive or likely to create unpredictable results.

“Network Rail and Southern say the works have to be done as soon as possible and cannot be deferred.

“But Network Rail says it may use the line closure to bring forward other works on the line.

“The tunnel works are a priority and have to be done as scheduled, while the additional works are needed for us to be able to press for two trains per hour in the next franchise.”

The Highways Agency emphasises it has taken into consideration the variable weather conditions at that time of year and are adaptable.

In particular, all efforts will be made to minimise clashes with the replacement bus service.

Mr Harland said: “Wherever you look in these busy nine weeks of the New Year there will be maintenance works.

“That’s good from one point of view. It means that after completion we will have a more efficient railway line and likewise A259.

“There is even the hope of a considerably improved train service post-2014. The only problem will be to survive this period.”