IN response to the recent problems on the Hastings main line I feel I must respond to the absurd comments made by the Southeastern spokesman.
If it wasn’t for the Victorian engineering skills we would not have a railway or a lot of other infrastructure for that matter, the branch line for what it was when built between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells 150 years ago performed well at that time.
What however has not performed well since is the investment in maintaining and upgrading the line. How you can expect an intrastructure system that is 150 years old perform to the transport requirements being ask for today without upgrading is beyond me.
Yes, sections of the line have had major stabilisation undertaken to stop the embankments slipping away from the track so embankments slipping has not been an unknown but embankments that form the cuttings need just as much work to them as he stated, no embankment will remain in the same condition from the day it was formed without maintainance.
That section of embankment that has slipped/washed down is not just down to a heavy period of rain but lack of investment in maintaining embankments. On the subject of embankments the removal programme of all the trees on the line between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells will cause further slips re: Crowhurst (still with ballast bags in place) because as we know trees reinforce embankments with their root system.
The fundemental reason for train slip is that the new 375 trains are designed to run on shallow gradients not the steep gradients that form the line up to Tunbridge Wells. The old slam door stock that was relaced 10 years ago did suffer slippage but because of their basic design the driver had more control over the drive wheels so could work the train through poor track conditions. The 375 train is computer controlled, taking away a lot of control from the driver over the train.
The other comment the spokesman made reference to was the high speed line between Ashford and St Pancras always remains open. How he can compare a line section that runs on a completley different infrastructure I don’t know.
The main reason is not track or the overhead line equipment, as power has little to do with it. It’s all down to the gradients hence the shallow embankments on the route.
In essence the line between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells was built as a branch line and remains so today as it has never seen real investment. It was built serving village communities focusing on the landowners’ farms hence why some of the stations are nowhere near to their communities such Frant, Wadhurst and Stonegate.
I appreciate the problems with the narrow tunnels (single track running). This was down to dodgy builders at the time but they could have been rebored to accommodate standard train widths. But that would have meant spending money so we have the cheap option, single track running.