MLAG AGM

 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2018

The Committee gives Notice that the fifteenth Annual General Meeting of the MarshLink Action Group is called for:

Tuesday 27th February 2018

at 7.00pm

in Rye Town Hall, Market Street, Rye, East Sussex

The Agenda of the formal Annual General Meeting will be as follows:

  1. Welcome and introductions
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Approval of Minutes of the last AGM held on 3 May 2017
  4. Chairman’s report
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. Nominations received for the Committee
  7. Election of the Committee
  8. Any other business and conclusion of formal AGM

MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE MARSH LINK ACTION GROUP

held on 3 May 2017 at Rye Town Hall, Rye

Stuart Harland chaired the meeting.

 

  • ATTENDANCE

The Chairman advised apologies received.

 

  • APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE LAST AGM

The minutes of the meeting held on 15 April 2016 were approved.

 

  • MATTERS ARISING FROM THE MINUTES

There were no matters arising.

 

  • TREASURER’S REPORT

The adoption of the accounts was proposed by Richard Holmes, seconded by Sandra Dean and approved on a unanimous show of hands.

 

  • ELECTION OF OFFICERS

The existing officers were willing to serve for a further year and offered themselves for re-election en masse. Proposed, seconded and approved on a unanimous show of hands.

 

Attention was drawn to the following committee vacancies and applications sought for the roles:

 

Secretary

Community Representative: Three Oaks, Ham Street and Appledore

Publicity and PR Officer

Commuter Representative

 

Two new members expressed their interest in joining the Committee without portfolio and the Chairman agreed to contact them to discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

Approved       ………………………………Chairman)        Date ……………………………..

Report from MLAG AGM May 3 2017

 

MarshLink Action Group’s Annual General Meeting took place last week and, contrary to some press reports (not Rye News which reported accurately) that included a presentation from representatives of Southern Railway – Martin Grier (Head of Operations) and Gavin Bostock (Head of Public Affairs).

 

Much of the presentation (and the questions that followed) related to the Driver Only Operation of doors (“DOO”), the subject of conflict with two rail unions over much of the last year, still continuing, and cause of much disruption to services across the Southern network. Southern acknowledge that their service over this period has not been as good as they expected but, currently, on strike days, they say 90% of services are operating. As to the MarshLink in recent months, the effect on strike days seems to be, primarily, for the Shuttle service to be cancelled whilst the other services run. It was emphasised that the diesel service will always have a conductor on-board to operate the doors: we are aware of this but it was revealed the reason is because there are no screens in the cab. The significance of the franchise being a management contract (unique in the independent train operating company era) was explained again – a regular re-telling. Southern were keen to emphasise that GTR’s driver training programme is ongoing (161 are currently under training) and that it is the only train operating company that will train drivers without previous experience. Southern currently have 986 drivers (versus 927 in 2005). It was suggested from the floor that there should be as many on-board supervisors (“OBSs”)/ guards/ conductors as drivers but this wasn’t accepted.

 

The advent of DOO has always been something of a mystery – was this a requirement of the Department for Transport or an idea thought up by Southern. It was therefore interesting that, during the presentation, it was revealed that the franchise invitation to tender and, indeed, Southern’s bid included the introduction of DOO. This was queried during Q&A and appeared to be re-confirmed. In support of this means of operation, Southern said that there had been a three-fold increase in positive comment about on-board staff since the beginning of the franchise – something of a surprise in view of the agony DOO has created via the ensuing strike days, irrespective of the performance of the OBSs themselves.

 

There is no guarantee that an OBS will be onboard in the same way that a guard was previously. Southern say that a large percentage of trains have run without a second person onboard for years. The safety critical ability of OBSs was also queried. Southern remained resolute to the company message but, by way of example, the predicament of disabled passengers was emphasised. Southern’s formula for an OBS being onboard remains that an OBS will be rostered for each train but, crucially, if an OBS was not available at the time, the train would run (apart from with the MarshLink diesel trains, as referred to above.

 

A vision-impaired member of MLAG wrote an email which was read out raising her concern about the difficulty of getting a train ticket without booking office staff being available; travelling on crowded trains, particularly to the west of Hastings (so the need for additional carriages); and the potential effect in the event of an accident. Southern remained adamant that they are responsive to such issues and would write via MLAG to respond to the points.

 

On the continuing theme of OBSs, Southern were asked what percentage of trains run without an OBS. In response, to explain the difficulty of answering an apparently simple question, it was explained that it isn’t a question of an absence of an OBS at the start of a journey results in the train running the whole length of the journey without an OBS. Southern has a department that re-schedules OBSs real-time so that an OBS along a route can be re-assigned to connect with a train running without an OBS so the whole length of a journey may not be affected.

 

Moving to the issue of capacity problems, it was pointed out that eighteen months ago, Amber Rudd and David Scorey (then a managing director of Southern) said a bi-mode train would be running on the MarshLink by now (subject to Department for Transport (“DfT”) funding). In a recent meeting with Ms. Rudd, MLAG was advised that the DfT had declined to fund the development of the train anticipated.

 

A member queried the timing of connections between the MarshLink and the Javelin services. There were particular problems with off-peak trains during the week and Sunday services. Southern said their timetable experts endeavoured to resolve such problems but there were so many permutations of train services, each with their own restrictions it was not possible to avoid some mis-matches. Nonetheless, this had been referred to by MLAG and others in response to the consultation document on the December 2018 timetable so there could be some improvement – but it may be a while coming.

 

Similarly, the timing of trains to Gatwick with connections at Eastbourne or Hastings was identified as a problem. Again, this issue had been pointed out in the recent timetable consultation. Southern referred to the problems with the East Coastway routes generally where one change had repercussions elsewhere. That was part of the reason for the timetable consultation.

 

A later train from Ashford to Rye and Hastings was called for. The passenger use of such a train was queried by Southern but, by way of a repost, it was suggested that the overall use of the service should be considered, not the use of any specific train. Again, this has been referred to by MLAG and others in the timetable consultation but Southern pointed out the difficulty created by Network Rail dictating access times they required for track maintenance. Southern agreed to return to MLAG with further thoughts on this.

 

The difficulties experienced with ticket vending machines was raised. It was suggested that off-peak tickets had time limitations applying which were not clear to passengers at the time of purchase, especially when travelling out of a network area. The point was noted but there were difficulties with cross-network issues. There were other issues raised with using a Senior Railcard in the new vending machines and the magnetic slip.

 

Questioning moved to the difficulty of living on the margins of a rail network. Some parts of the rail network have service options in the event of a cancellation or, indeed, a short delay before the next train. Living on the edge of a network, the only alternative is a very long delay. Southern noted the point but confirmed that they are doing the best they can with the equipment they have available. Southern said that the cancellation of a services was immediately brought to the top of their agenda – they are immediately advised by Southern’s travel information service when a train is cancelled and look for ways to mitigate the passenger agony created.

 

Questions were raised on Southern’s formal measurements of success. It was acknowledged that a customer report was produced regularly but that was across the whole of Southern’s services – we would like to see figures specifically for the MarshLink. Southern pointed out that some information was publicised on billboards on stations but MLAG would be sent a copy of such information as is available – we may need to return to them with a request for other information.

 

Finally, it was advised that there would be another MLAG meeting at Rye Town Hall at 7.15pm on Thursday 15 June at which one of the authors of the Kent Route Study (dealing with such matters as the proposed Javelin service to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill) would make a presentation and answer questions.

Stuart Harland

Chairman, MLAG

MLAG AGM – 3 MAY 2017

The MarshLink Annual General Meeting will be held on Wednesday 3rd May at Rye Town Hall. The formal (normally very short) AGM will start at 7pm with presentations following immediately afterwards including a question and answer session (usually a very lively and informative part of the meeting).

The current Southern rail services continue to be enveloped in conflict with the RMT and the membership of ASLEF (as opposed to the management of ASLEF who appear to be in frequent agreement with Southern). We trust we will have a representative of Southern Railways attending the meeting to discuss the issues from their perspective.

Looking further into the future we will be looking at the issues surrounding the possibility of the HS1 service between St. Pancras and Ashford being extended to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill (maybe also to Eastbourne) – it has been given a name, so that’s a good start, the MarshLink High Speed (though, perversely, there is no prospect the service would operate at high speed along the MarshLink line). We have been waiting for quite a while for Network Rail’s Kent Route Study (perhaps strangely, the MarshLink comes within the scope of the Kent Study) which will formulate Government policy on the future of this service, more particularly the infrastructure required to enable the service to operate. One of Network Rail’s strategic planners who wrote the consultation document will be at the AGM to summarise the issues raised in the Study and endeavour to answer questions. For those who would like to get straight to the detail, see https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/long-term-planning/

We will also refer to the other very important consultation documents which members may wish to respond to themselves. One is the South Eastern re-franchising which includes some controversial proposals, including that the Ashford to Brighton service should be cut at Hastings, the MarshLink therefore becoming part of the South Eastern franchise – see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/future-of-south-eastern-rail-services

But more on that, and other matters, at the MLAG AGM.

Stuart Harland

Chairman, MLAG

MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE MARSH LINK ACTION GROUP

held on 15 April 2016 at Rye Town Hall, Rye

Stuart Harland chaired the meeting.

  • ATTENDANCE

The Chairman advised apologies received.

  • APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE LAST AGM

The minutes of the meeting held on 20 March 2015 were approved.

  • MATTERS ARISING FROM THE MINUTES

There were no matters arising.

  • TREASURER’S REPORT

The adoption of the accounts was proposed by John Stedman, seconded by John Spencer and approved on a unanimous show of hands.

  • ELECTION OF OFFICERS

The existing officers were willing to serve for a further year and offered themselves for re-election en masse. Proposed, seconded and approved on a unanimous show of hands.

Attention was drawn to the following committee vacancies and applications sought for the roles:

Secretary

Community Representative: Winchelsea, Ham Street and Appledore

Publicity and PR Officer

Commuter Representative

Two new members expressed their interest in joining the Committee without portfolio and the Chairman agreed to contact them to discuss.

The formal business was concluded at 7.15pm following which there were presentations from

– Paul Best, Network Rail

– Martin Grier, Head of Drivers, Southern Railway

– Ray Chapman, Chairman, East Sussex Rail Alliance

– Roger Blake, Railfuture

The presentations were followed by questions from attendees to the Chairman and guest speakers.

 

REPORT AND PRESS RELEASE:  MLAG ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING  15 April 2016

 

 There was a lot of information provided to attendees of this year’s MarshLink Action Group Annual General Meeting, some rather technical and some requiring considerable faith in a futuristic-sounding plan being put in place.

 

Firstly, Martin Grier, Head of Drivers, Southern Railway provided less futuristic information with an update on the problems Southern has encountered over the last year, in particular the enormous issue of the redevelopment of London Bridge Station (the worst now over but not expected to be completed until 2018) and a landslide at Glynde (expected to be resolved within a few weeks after having cut short the Ashford – Brighton route). There were many questions raised by members about current service issues, in particular the connections at Ashford, the need for a later train (and more, but all of them included in MLAG’s current issues with Southern): Mr. Grier said he would report back to MLAG on these questions but since they are issues MLAG has a continuing (if very slowly developing) dialogue with Southern about, early acceptable answers should not be anticipated. Mr. Grier was thanked for his input and MLAG looks forward to maintaining a productive relationship with him and with Southern.

 

The focus of the meeting then turned to the future and the potential Javelin direct service to London stopping at Rye, Hastings and Bexhill, first aired at the MLAG AGM two years ago by Network Rail and Amber Rudd MP. Since then, Ms. Rudd has established the High Speed Rail Working Group (“HSRW”) to push forward this proposal (although, to avoid misconceptions, it should be emphasised there is no intention of the service operating at high speed along the MarshLink).

 

A formidable group of speakers presented their views on the way forward:

 

– Paul Best, Senior Strategic Planner, Network Rail and significantly involved in assessing this scheme;

 

– Ray Chapman, Chairman of East Sussex Rail Alliance (of which MLAG is a member) who is a driving force behind bringing the Javelin service to the MarshLink and a member of the HSRW group; and

 

– Roger Blake, Director of Railfuture (of which MLAG is a member) who is a noted authority locally with an independent view on rail matters (noting that the stated role of Railfuture is “to campaign for a bigger, better railway in Britain”).

 

They each presented to the meeting, from their point of view, but a view which was fairly consistent. A national review of electrification schemes to be implemented in the period 2019-24 (what is referred to by Network Rail as Control Period 6) is expected soon but, in view of the significant schemes already underway and behind time, the MarshLink scheme cannot be expected to be near the top of the list. All speakers suggested we should look at what we want to achieve in terms of “outcomes” rather than attempt to dictate how the outcomes should be achieved. The outcomes MLAG is looking for are, in essence, to obtain a direct link to London St. Pancras and a second intermediate train per hour between Ashford and Brighton service. So the question was then, can this be achieved by another means than by electrifying the MarshLink. The common response given by all the speakers was “Yes.” It was proposed that, with nascent hybrid technology (electric trains but capable of operating on batteries) or bi-mode technology (electric trains but operational with a secondary source of power, so diesel or nitrogen) it would be possible to run these trains on electrified line (when electricity is available) and then switch to the alternative fuel when operating on non-electrified line (such as the existing MarshLink track). This may appear somewhat futuristic but such trains exist and even bi-mode Javelins are in production for the Great Western line. However, this requires a great change in faith from where we were only a few months ago when life seemed more certain and we were feeling relatively confident that an electric infill scheme on the MarshLink would enable existing equipment to operate a Javelin service (for the route to London) and use existing Electrostar trains (for the Ashford to Brighton route).

 

Although this was the main theme of presentations, other interesting point were made including one very specific comment relating to one of MLAG’s continuing issues with Network Rail, the line speed limits along the MarshLink. MLAG has complained for quite a while that the current line speed limits are not what were contemplated after the tunnel works in 2012 (when the Ore Tunnel was closed) and the opportunity was taken to upgrade track on several parts of the line. There is one stretch of line from Doleham to Ore still to be upgraded and it was suggested that a higher line speed could be achieved compared to what we are expecting because the original target was limited by it being envisaged only diesel trains would operate on the line (not electric as now expected). This situation also applies to those parts of the line already upgraded so further upgrade may be possible.

 

The presentations raised many questions from the floor about hybrid/ bi-mode trains. The major concern voiced was that the MarshLink would be operated by equipment (for both the London and the local services) that is different to the equipment used on surrounding track which is fully electric: so would we suffer the same problems as we do now by having equipment different to our surrounding lines with the detrimental effect that when there is an equipment failure, the service breaks down. There were views on each side of this argument but, in MLAG’s view, this is a matter of concern.

 

There are some important consultation papers due to emerge soon which MLAG (and the other action groups in the area operating within ESRA) will need to respond to. The first is likely to be the Kent Route Study (despite its name, this includes the operation of the MarshLink line). Although it was suggested by the speakers that we should concentrate on “outcomes” in our response to this study, it is clear that even if the MarshLink is operated by hybrid or bi-mode trains, two infrastructure “outputs” (as they are called) are essential to achieve the outcomes. The outputs required are to modify the track layout at Ashford to allow MarshLink trains access to the HS1 track (a formidable job but partly required to improve the routing of other Javelin routes anyway) and to extend the Rye passing loop. We expect these to be included in the Kent Route Study but, in any event, MLAG (and its fellow rail action groups) can be expected to be pushing for these in their response to the Study.

 

MLAG announced its new website went live that day although it continues to be under development – see www.mlag.org.uk .

 

Stuart Harland

Chairman

MarshLink Action Group

 

_____________________________________________________

MLAG will be holding its AGM this year on Friday 15 April at Rye Town Hall. The formal meeting will start at 7pm with presentations, followed by questions, at around 7.15pm (to allow attendees to get to the meeting by train).

 

The speakers at the AGM will be:

 

– Martin Grier, Head of Drivers, Southern Railway who will be commenting on the past year’s performance, problems (and solutions ?) encountered and, perhaps, MLAG’s objectives;

 

– Paul Best, Senior Strategic Planner, Network Rail who will comment on recent infrastructure developments in the area (in particular the MarshLink line). Of particular interest to MLAG at the moment, he is heavily involved in assessing infrastructure requirements that would affect the viability of a direct Javelin service from London to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill. He may also be able to inform us about a consultation that is soon to take place in which views of the public are sought on such matters as the proposed Javelin service;

 

– Ray Chapman, Chairman of East Sussex Rail Alliance (of which MLAG is a member) who is a driving force behind bringing the Javelin service to the MarshLink and now a member of the High Speed Working Group recently established to bring this proposal to fruition; and

 

– Roger Blake, Director of Railfuture who will have an independent view on rail opportunities and developments (noting that the stated role of Railfuture is “to campaign for a bigger, better railway in Britain”).

 

Come to the meeting if you have any issues with the current MarshLink services you’d like to share or want to hear or comment on the latest proposals for the Javelin service. You may find the current proposals are somewhat different to what they were at last year’s AGM.

 

Meanwhile, MLAG’s new website (still on www.mlag.org.uk) should be operational by the time of the meeting but is formally still under development

 

 

Stuart Harland

Chairman

13 April 2016

 

 

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2016

The Committee gives Notice that the tenth Annual General Meeting of the MarshLink Action Group is called for:

Friday 15th April 2016

at 7.00pm

in Rye Town Hall, Market Street, Rye, East Sussex

The AGENDA of the Annual General Meeting will be as follows:

  1. Welcome and introductions
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Approval of Minutes of the last AGM held on 20 March 2015
  4. Chairman’s report
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. Nominations for the Committee
  7. Election of the Committee
  8. Any other business and conclusion of formal AGM

Following the formal Annual General Meeting (at approximately 7.15pm) there will be presentations and a Q&A session with:

  • Paul Best, Network Rail
  • Martin Grier, Southern Railway
  • Ray Chapman, Chairman, East Sussex Rail Alliance
  • Roger Blake, Railfuture

NOTES TO AGENDA

All members of the Group are entitled to attend and vote at the meeting.

Item 3 – Copies of the Minutes of the formal part of the AGM held on 20 March 2015 are available on MLAG’s website (www.mlag.org.uk)

Item 5 – The Income and Expenditure Account for the calendar year 2014 and the Balance Sheet as at 31 December 2015 will be available at the meeting

Item 6 – Please advise the Chairman at the earliest opportunity if you wish to stand for election to the Committee

Item 7 – Subject to the re-election of the existing Officers, there are vacancies for:

– Secretary

– Press and Publicity Officer

– Commuter Representative (to try to tap into the knowledge of daily users of the line)

– Chairman Designate (to have a successor in place at the end of the current Chairman’s period of office).

In addition, we would like to have a representative from each station (Appledore and Ham Street are currently not specifically represented). Nominations are invited for these roles.

Committee meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every other month apart from July (i.e. January, March, May, September, November) and on other occasions, as required.

 

COMMITTEE MEMBERS during 2015

Stuart Harland (Chairman)

Monika Betson (representing the interests of Three Oaks passengers and THWART – Three Oaks and Winchelsea Action for Rail Transport)

David Bookless (Treasurer/ Membership Secretary)

David Carver
Richard Holmes (immediate past-Chairman)

Rhoderick Powrie (Consultant)

Ray Prewer (Rye Town Council representative)

John Stedman
Christopher Strangeways (representing Rother Environmental Group)

CHAIRMAN’S BRIEF REPORT FOR 2016 AGM

We have had a year of problems, mostly (certainly not only) to the west of Rye. The Hastings – London line has been subject to significant and frequent delays, largely (but not wholly) resulting from the vast works underway at London Bridge Station (and still for a few more years to come). To the east of Rye, the Ashford – London CX route has not been so badly affected but still there have been delays. Recently, the Ashford – Brighton service has been shortened because of a landslip at Glynde and this is expected to take about two months to clear. We will have at out AGM a representative from Southern Railway who may be able to comment on these issues as well as our other long term issues.

Looking further into the future, we have received presentations at the last two MLAG AGMs about a proposed direct Javelin service between London and Rye, Hastings and Bexhill and a half-hourly service along the MarshLink. The plan, in essence, voiced until recently has been for an in-fill electrification scheme and a relatively short length of duelling: the reality, of course, is far more complicated with the obvious need to change the complicated track layout at Ashford and considerable signalling works. And this is how plans appeared to be progressing until last month when, at Amber Rudd’s Transport Summit, there were suggestions from speakers that physical electrification may not be viable now (contrary to the finding of the Mott MacDonald report mentioned last year) and, indeed, may not be necessary. The suggestion now appears to be to do much as previously suggested (but without electrifying the track) and operating hybrid or bi-modal trains (to be explained at the AGM). MLAG’s concerns about this proposal are many and these will be voiced at the meeting as the proposals are debated by the representatives of Network Rail, ESRA and Railfuture.

Stuart Harland, Chairman, MarshLink Action Group