Plans to axe unpopular two-carriage Eastbourne train service

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Proposed changes to Southern Rail’s timetable could see an end to the hugely unpopular two-carriage train which runs to Brighton and Hastings from Eastbourne.

Southern is consulting on plans to scrap the two-carriage Brighton to Ashford International train, which calls at Eastbourne on its journey along the coast and up to serve the Eurostar from Ashford, in December 2018.

The service has had ‘significant crowding issues, according to Southern, but the company had argued that because the Marshlink line (from Hastings to Ashford) isn’t yet electrified it has to run the two diesel coaches.

However, Southern is now proposing to make people change at Eastbourne or Hastings for the Ashford service, meaning the company could run an electric four-carriage service instead.

Other changes which could affect Eastbourne passengers are proposed quicker journey times from Eastbourne to Brighton (by not stopping the train at Moulsecoomb or London Road).

Southern plans to continue its current service from Seaford to London, but will be looking into the frequency of stops at Plumpton.

Southern’s head of strategic planning Phil Hutchinson said, “Our proposals give passengers desperately-needed longer trains on the most popular parts of the Hastings to Brighton route and were supported by 71% of people responding to the first phase of our consultation.”

Train users are being asked to comment on detailed timetables as GTR launches the second phase of a massive consultation exercise.

Charles Horton, chief executive officer at Govia Thameslink Railway – the parent company of Southern – said, “Our networks are some of the busiest and most complex in the world. Passenger journeys have doubled in recent years, the fastest growth in the UK. Sitting still is not an option.

“That’s why we’ve been hard at work, delivering the transformation needed. By improving tracks and stations, introducing new trains and adding more destinations, we’re making sure our passengers’ railway is fit for the future. We are still in transition but the work is nearly complete.

“We started our consultation in the autumn – one of the biggest ever conducted – and we’ve listened and taken on board where possible passengers’ views on the new routes and developed weekday timetables for final comment.

“They’ve been designed with reliability at their heart, offering new direct routes across London and more seamless journeys.”

For Southern passengers, GTR argues the changes will deliver more capacity and better reliability through a range of improvements designed to make routes self-contained and easier to operate, reducing the domino effect in times of disruption.

Changes to introduce driver-only operation, where drivers are responsible for opening and closing train doors, on the Southern network sparked a long-running dispute last year, which has continued into 2017.

The RMT union, which represents conductors who have been transferred to on-board supervisors, has called another 24-hour walkout on Monday, July 10.

Meanwhile, a ban on overtime working by train drivers’ union ASLEF came into effect on June 29, while it is also balloting members on holding more strikes.

Southern has brought in a revised temporary timetable.

The changes involve making drivers responsible for opening and closing train doors and the RMT has raised concerns about the potential loss of a second safety critical member of staff on Southern services.

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “The ban reflects the total loss of trust and goodwill between train drivers and the company. Drivers work overtime on an entirely voluntary basis and have no contractual obligation to do so.”

But Angie Doll, Southern’s passenger services director, said: “This action is going to be very inconvenient to our passengers and communities but by putting in this revised timetable we will be able to run a more reliable and consistent service.

“We’ve been safely running our trains with drivers closing the doors on additional routes since January and have had six months of sustained improvement in service levels and positive passenger feedback.

“We urge ASLEF to put an end to their industrial action and allow passengers to get on with their lives.”

For more information on the temporary timetable visit Southern’s website.

• What do you think of the proposals? Email us at: eastbourne.herald@jpress.co.uk