Little luxury for rail commuters

Commuters are facing long journeys on the replacement bus service until March
Commuters are facing long journeys on the replacement bus service until March

ANGRY commuters have accused Southern Rail of breaking its promise to supply luxury coaches during the ongoing rail closure on the Hastings to Ashford line.

The route remains closed until early March while improvements take place to Ore Tunnel and other sections of the line.

The closure has seen journey times double for commuters and local school children.

Rail operators Southern had promised Marshlink Action Group (MLAG) that ‘luxury’ coaches would be used as replacement buses while the line is closed.

But many rail users have said this has not been the case.

Commuter Gary Mewis complained: “Marshlink line commuters were promised luxury executive type coaches by Southern on the rail replacement service during the line closure.

“We have yet to experience such luxury. The rubbishy old buses used on this run are an insult.

“Not only are we left freezing when the heating is left off, the bus driver leaves the doors wide open while he gets out for a fag every time it stops. We are also deafened by music from their blaring radios. Has anyone from Southern bothered to check up on them?”

Southern Rail stakeholder relations manager Antony Merlyn said: “The majority of vehicles in use are ‘coaches’, with one single deck ‘bus’ being used that is equipped with coach seating.

A number of ‘double deck buses’ are also used, though these are operated on the Rye to Ashford school services, as well as on a ‘stand by’ contingency basis.

“Buses for the Ore tunnel replacement services have been sourced from a number of contractors over a wide area.”

Marshlink chairman Stuart Harland said: “This is an issue which I’ve taken up with Southern from the very start.

“I asked them to specifically say if they were intending to replace current buses with proper coaches. In the absence of any comment, I guess they aren’t.

“I have heard directly from people who have taken the boneshaker single deck bus so it is interesting to note that they are supposed to be fitted with coach seating. MLAG will make further representations to Southern about this bus.”