From: Phil Hutchinson, Head of strategic planning, Govia Thameslink Railway
In September last year Govia Thameslink Railway launched an extensive public consultation on proposals for timetable changes in 2018.
These included a proposal to split the Brighton to Ashford International service at Hastings or Eastbourne, driven by the need to look at how we could increase capacity.
We are acutely aware that there are some significant crowding issues on the route, in particular at weekends and during summer weekdays.
Services between Brighton and Ashford are operated by two-carriage diesel trains, because the line is not electrified east of Ore.
With no additional diesel trains available, options were reviewed to address capacity in the short term along with some long-standing requests for other improvements.
In phase one of the consultation we suggested running the service as two separate trains, with passengers changing at either Eastbourne or Hastings.
We could then replace the Brighton to Eastbourne/Hastings section with four-carriage electric trains, doubling capacity where most needed.
Throughout the consultation, the themes of capacity and time keeping have been raised as the top priorities here.
Of 510 people responding to the question, 71 per cent supported a split at either Eastbourne (34.5 per cent) or Hastings (36.5 per cent).
We had already reviewed passenger usage across the route; this showed that many fewer passengers make through journeys beyond Hastings, compared with beyond Eastbourne, towards Ashford.
We met with rail user groups in the area to discuss options last year, and have had further, very constructive recent meetings to get their input as we plan the way forward.