Rail changes will not be implemented

RAIL operator Southern says it will not implement the East Coastway timetable changes following extensive passenger consultation.

The changes were designed to provide better connections at Ashford International, additional capacity on the Uckfield route into London, extra capacity between Brighton and Eastbourne, and additional stops at Winchelsea and Three Oaks. However, the compromise was that some direct journey opportunities were reduced, with the service between Brighton and Ashford lost.

A total of 164 responses were received following the consultation. When analysed, these responses showed that key stakeholders had serious reservations about the merits of the scheme.

Following analysis of the responses Southern felt it only right to recommend that the changes not be implemented and the Secretary of State has agreed with this view.

It will now mean that the direct coastway link from Brighton, Lewes, Eastbourne and Hastings to Ashford, and the high-speed and international services, will be maintained.

Southern is also delivering improvements to the London services by lengthening two evening commuter trains when the new timetable comes into effect in May 2010. The 16.17 from Victoria to Eastbourne and the 17.23 service from London Bridge to Eastbourne will have 12 carriages compared with the eight they currently have, providing more than 450 extra seats for the town's commuters.

David Scorey, Southern's franchise improvement director, said, "I would like to thank people for their help with this consultation. Although the outcome is not the one we envisaged, I think it shows how powerful public consultation can be.

"I know some people will be disappointed with this outcome, but having consulted with stakeholders and passengers we felt it was only right to take all views into account when making our final recommendation."