White Christmas a further threat to rail problems

YOU published Simon Stoddart’s knowledgeable and succinct analysis of local train deficiencies last week (Observer, August 26).

This focused on poor journey times due to a lack of targeted investment. There is no doubt that journeys to the then ‘Hastings Riviera’ would have been much quicker and easier in the Edwardian era.

Simon wants this failing to be addressed more urgently in the New Year but unfortunately, there is a much greater threat before then.

I still have my copy of the Observer for December 3, 2010. The headline is “IT’S A TOTAL WHITEOUT” and it says that ‘temperatures plummeted to -10’.

It’s full of comments from dazed and confused rail commuters.

As an East Sussex outsider I wrote to the subsequent parliamentary enquiry and my comments were included in the evidence.

I felt that this area would not sustain several weeks of the conditions experienced in 2010 and that there could well have been a major crisis including food shortages if the snow had remained for more than two weeks.

I suggested that instead of spending £3million pounds on heating track in a futile exercise the rail company should invest in hot air blowers to melt ice on the third rail (as happens in Scotland).

When the report came out in April it that seemed some of this was actually being taken on board, no pun intended.

I was dismayed though to see reported in The Times (June this year) that the head of technical operations (based in Kent) was again complacent about the ‘new’ heated rail technology.

I very much hope that a major freeze up does not occur again (and I suspect so does the rail company) but it would be unfortunate if everyone has to find out the hard way just how vulnerable this climatically ‘blessed’ part of the country might be to sudden extreme conditions.

Perhaps everyone will be okay and last year was just a ‘one-off’ but I will probably be spending Christmas in the north this year anyway, where cold weather does not come as a total surprise.


Rotherfield Avenue