Modern train coaches to be replaced with old rolling stock

RAIL commuters have been left fuming at plans to replace modern state of the art train coaches with 30-year-old rolling stock which have no toilets or air conditioning.

Southern Rail says it needs to bring the Class 313 suburban units in to ease overcrowding on peak services.

But commuters on rail lines between Hastings and Brighton, which includes services in and out of Eastbourne, have condemned the plan saying the rolling stock is old, having seen too much wear and tear on the North London line, and have no air con and toilets.

The East Sussex Rail Alliance, which campaigns for better services along the coast and to London for commuters and other rail users, says Southern is replacing the two-car Class 172 units, built 2003–4 and three-car Class 377/3 units, built 2001–2, with three-car Class 313 units built in 1976–7. The Class 313 units are not fitted with toilets or air-conditioning, and have a top speed of 75mph against the 100mph top speed of the more recent trains.

Andrew Leach of ESRA said, "In spite of our objections made to Southern and the Department for Transport in their consultation on the timetable, it appears that it was already a done deal. Passengers between Brighton, Eastbourne and Seaford are going to have to endure uncomfortable journeys made even longer by the reduced top speed of the refurbished stock.

"We are also very disappointed that it looks as if disabled passengers will have to cross the level-crossing at Hampden Park to change trains and continue their journey, instead of being able to change at platform level at Eastbourne.

"Southern doesn't guarantee connections at Hampden Park, and it is the busiest level crossing in Europe. Passengers who will have most difficulty in travelling from one side of Eastbourne to the other risk being stranded — even the waiting room closes at 7pm."

The group is calling on the DoT to invest in infrastructure to ensure a better service for all on the East Coastway and in south London.

A spokesperson at Southern said this week the company would be introducing four Class 313 units, currently in daily service on overground routes in London, and two Class 442 trains in daily operation at the timetable change on May 23 on services on the Brighton - Seaford and Brighton - West Worthing routes to provide additional carriages on most crowded trains at the timetable change.

The spokesperson said Southern had hoped to "refresh" the interior of the 313 units prior to introducing them in May 2010 but it admitted that would not happen until later in the summer.

He said, "Our strong preference is to provide passengers with fully refreshed trains prior to any introduction. However, there is a need to make additional capacity available on our trains at the earliest opportunity and we have therefore, after careful consideration, elected to continue with the introduction of four Class 313 units to the daily service in May.

"We have considered attempting to compress the timescales for the refresh of these units, but experience has shown that such an approach, even if it were possible, compromises both quality of the train and reliability of service.

"The alternative option of withholding these trains from service until they are refreshed would prevent relief of crowding on current peak services, which we know is a priority for passengers. Recognising that the option of un-refreshed trains is not one that passengers would necessarily wish for if there were a more attractive alternative, we feel that we have made the right choice for overall benefit."