BELEAGUERED rail users are set to be hit with a double whammy with news that January’s nine- week line closure is likely to coincide with major roadworks on the A259.
The line between Hastings and Ashford is set to close while repair work take place on the Ore Tunnel and is set to severely hamper the journeys of those who travel to London on this route.
Rail action group Marshlink pushed for a shuttle service between Rye and Ashford but rail operators Southern say a replacement bus service is the only option.
There are already concerns that winter weather could disrupt the bus service now buses could also be delayed by the roadworks, which are taking palace between Winchelsea and Brenzett.
Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd is calling on Southern to come up with a better solution and there are also concerns over the safety of school children forced to use the replacement bus service.
Rail campaigner Martin Woodfine, from St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme (SHRIMP), said of the roadworks: “This has the potential to create travel difficulties along this busy corridor, with both road and rail links subject to major disruption.
“Of particular concern is the potential impact on the railways bus replacement services which will need to use the A259 road link.
“While Southern has, to date, been immovable on its plans despite approaches by Rother and Hastings councils and Amber Rudd MP, we consider that some adjustments should be made to their plans, including the provision of at least one coach service per hour non-stop to Ashford via the A28, thus avoiding the A259 road delays.
Marshlink chairman, Stuart Harland, said: “My preference is to get the roadworks to the west of Rye completed before, or deferred until after, the railway works. The works to the east of Rye shouldn’t be such a problem. I would not want the rail works delayed.”
Southern’s customer services manager, Liam Ludlow, said: “The condition of the Ore Tunnel really does make it imperative that the work be carried out as soon as possible, and we do not believe that Network Rail, which is responsible for this, would be willing to move the planned dates back.
“As far as the replacement bus services are concerned, we have concluded it would serve our passengers best to put in place a reliable, robust replacement bus plan, and we have been talking to people locally to ensure we deliver the right number of buses to the right locations to meet the needs of passengers along this route.
“We would expect to publish the final information towards the end of November.
“We are currently in consultation with user groups, and should these consultations finish earlier, we may be able to publish details sooner.
Lib Dem parliamentary spokesman for Hastings and Rye, Nick Perry, said: “I hope that the industry officials have listened to the very real concerns from parents and teachers about the potential problems for local students. They will need to liaise further with the college and make every effort to iron out these problems.”