Overcrowding on the popular Brighton-Eastbourne-Hastings-Ashford fast service could be improved by using recycled London Underground trains.
Many of the problems are caused by a lack of carriages so Southern Railway is hoping to improve the service at a low-cost by using re-engineered District Line trains.
This week, East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) chairman Ray Chapman said it was engaged with Southern and the rail industry to ensure the route gets higher priority for improvements.
“Once trialled, these highly efficient diesel-electric train sets would be an ideal interim solution on South Coast services,” he said.
“Carrying up to 150 seats per three-car train and a further 130 standing, these would provide just the extra capacity and comfort we need, by reinforcing the two-car sets currently in operation, especially during peak periods when they are heavily overcrowded.
“They would also add extra reliability for the increasing numbers who leave Eastbourne, Bexhill, Hastings and Rye for Ashford for the Javelin and Eurostar services to London and the Continent.”
The plan was revealed as MP for Bexhill and Battle Huw Merriman was joined by Southern’s lead engineer David Hickson on a fact-finding delegation to Warwickshire to Vivarail where they remodel the trains.
“I applaud the initiative to try and find a solution to overcrowding on the South Coast,” Mr Merriman said.
“We had a productive trip to the Midlands to view this novel idea of recycling tube trains and I am incredibly grateful to the rail user groups and Southern Railways for joining the delegation.
“When politicians, train companies and passenger groups work together, as we are, there is more chance of us finding and delivering a solution for passengers.”
Due to budget restrictions imposed by the Department of Transport, Southern is unable to purchase more of the expensive current style of diesel stock for the Brighton to Ashford service.
However, ESRA has carried out research on less expensive alternatives and found that Vivarail could offer a very low-cost interim solution.
“We are short of five diesel sets to cope with the rising demand and to overcome cancellations due to failures,” Mr Chapman said.
“With the prospect of upgrading to electric services by 2020 we must fill the gap or lose an increasing number of travellers to return to road travel over the coast’s totally inadequate road system.”
Vivarail’s trains will cater for three types of service – heavy commuter, outer commuter and country requirements – and will be available in spring 2016.
The company’s CEO Adrian Shooter came up with the idea to re-use the long-lived aluminium-bodied former District Line D78 stock which are stripped out, refurnished and equipped with new running and drive gear, employing new technology diesel power units with ultra-low noise and emission levels.
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