ON Friday, April 1, a group of six dogged, determined local residents got together for a regular meeting on our local train services.
We are SHRIMP (www.1066shrimprail.org.uk) – the St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme.
We met at the White Rock Hotel (thank you Laurence for your kind support) and ran through our plan for lobbying both the rail companies and Government on your behalf to make sure our rail service improves. We are agreed that with South Eastern’s franchise lasting until 2014 (it runs the London to Hastings franchise) we have to vigilantly guard the service we have, and plan for improvements from the new franchise after 2014.
There are two ways we can get this. The first is from substantial investment, which I believe will only come with a longer franchise which we would like to achieve. Our preferred outcome would be the electrification of the Marshlink line - right through from Ashford to Eastbourne. This would speed up regeneration right along the south east coast. And the second is from a smarter timetable.
The example I give for this is a recent trip I made from St Leonards to Waterloo on a train which left late. Because it left late it did not stop at half of the scheduled stations, and the total journey took one hour and 16 minutes. This is clearly possible, without investment, without re-building tunnels or additional electrification. But we need to have a timetable in a new franchise that specifies a certain number of fast trains. We must make the franchisees focus on the destinations down the line and not just those north of Tonbridge.
That is what SHRIMP is lobbying for. A better, smarter service.
And one other thing – we want our trolley service back. SHRIMP is actively working with a new initiative, the Hastings Trolley Co-operative, to provide a community-run service to replace the previous subsidised service.
It is coming soon. It is the start of the community fight back for a better service here to Hastings.