Talks in a bid to stave off New Year train chaos

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

RAIL bosses and passengers will be meeting tonight (Friday) to find ways to avert potential chaos on the Hastings to Ashford line.

Engineering works to the Ore tunnel will effectively shut the rail line for more than two months from the start of January.

The situation has been labelled ‘horrendous’ by rail action group Marshlink, which has called tonight’s meeting at the Rye Community Centre from 7.15pm.

The meeting will hear presentations from Network Rail’s Network Planner for London and the south east, the rail operator’s senior schemes sponsor and Southern’s head of train planning.

This will be followed by a session where rail users can fire questions at the panel about the proposed works.

Marshlink Action Group (MLAG) chairman, Stuart Harland, said: “The prospect of there being no trains at all operating on the line for nine weeks is rather horrendous, but so too is the prospect of not resolving all the speed limit problems, and the potentially dangerous hazards, currently on the line.

“The Ore Tunnel has been a problem for many years; similarly the bend to the west of Ashford station. So this is the opportunity to get those problems resolved.

“We have seen in the news recently the problem resulting from the unscheduled closure of a tunnel.

“Only last week the Balcombe Tunnel on the main Brighton Line had to be closed for emergency repairs with replacement buses operating between Haywards Heath and Three Bridges.

“This shows the importance of planning countermeasures well in advance and we have to applaud Network Rail and Southern for doing that in the case of the Ore tunnel.

“The need for the works is undeniable and MLAG is keen to ensure that the necessary works to the west of Ashford station are included in the scheduled works. So the target now has to be how to make the best of it.

“MLAG feels there has to be a way to thread a shuttle service through the works between Three Oaks and Ashford to avoid buses along the whole of the route.

“Perhaps the more difficult task would be to run a shuttle service without delaying the works. Our further concern is the timing of works during the winter.

“On the one hand we are very pleased that the two companies have seen the need for the works to be done in winter to reduce disruption during the tourist season, so important to the local economy.

“Inevitably the concern is the effect of the weather on keeping to schedule.”