Dear Amber Rudd,
You will be very aware that the issue of overcrowding on the Brighton < > Ashford (‘Marshlink’) services is an historic one; the current industrial disputes are merely aggravating an already difficult situation.
In a Hastings Observer article last week (set up by Ray Chapman of ESRA) Southern p/o GoviaThameslinkRailway were asked a direct question about the feasibility of acquiring VivaRail Class 230 units to provide increased capacity. As usual their response was ‘there are no more diesel units available’ – to a question about getting some that are!
In previous discussions between yourself / SHRIMP / BRAG / GTR / DfT / NWR it was agreed that the preferred way forward was to convert existing class 377 (electric) units to dual-power operation, meaning electric trains could also operate on the diesel section of line. As a plan, so far so good.
However, this scheme has fallen by the track-side and this has nothing to do with industrial relations issues.
TIMETABLE (to date):
At the GTR stakeholder conference in September 2015 we were told that GTR were merely awaiting the financial sign-off from DfT for the project, which indicates the primary discussions with DfT had already taken place. We were advised that from sign-off to on-the-rails would be approximately 14 months.
At the 2016 Hastings Transport summit GTR (Alex Foulds) revealed that no discussions had taken place with the manufacturer Bombardier.
At the GTR stakeholder conference in June 2016 GTR (Gerry McFadden) announced that they were still waiting sign-off from DfT.
Also in June there were unconfirmed reports that Bombardier were withdrawing from the project.
In a nutshell, what is going on?
Who at DfT is holding this project up by delaying financial sign-off?
Is that person connected to the current industrial disputes?
Why is Southern still repeating ‘no more diesels’ when there are options?
Is the manufacturer Bombardier still involved in this project?
Will the Rail Minister step in to accelerate this process?
With many Southern units lying idle (and this is connected to the current issues) then this would have been a useful time-window in which the conversions could have taken place.
On behalf of
SHRIMP - St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement
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