AGM Presentation from Southern

Presentation of Southern Railway’s May 2018 timetable

To the 2018 MLAG AGM

Phil Hutchinson of GTR/ Southern was invited to speak to members at a meeting following MLAG’s Annual General Meeting. The main topic was Southern Railway’s May 2018 Timetable across the East Coastway – the services from Ashford to Eastbourne; Hastings/ Ore to Brighton; Hastings to London Victoria (including Gatwick Airport); and Brighton to Seaford.


MLAG has been working with other local Rail Action Groups (Bexhill Rail Action, Ore Transport, St. Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme) and RailFuture (SouthEast) holding extensive and cooperative meetings with Phil and his team to improve the May timetable from that initially proposed in Southern’s first consultation paper in 2016: this initial timetable was based on cutting the MarshLink service at Hastings.

So, what changes will we see in the May timetables ?


Service cut at EastbourneThe most obvious change is the Ashford to Brighton service will be cut at Eastbourne, not Hastings: the service to Brighton was hard fought for by MLAG and other rail action groups more than 10 years ago and MLAG would have preferred to retain that direct connection. Some of the effects of cutting this link are explained below but, essentially, journeys to the west will be slower than now. On the other hand, the timing of MarshLink services should not be delayed with path problems into and out of Brighton, a persistent problem in recent years.


Basic structure of services across the weekOne objective of the action groups was that the rail services should be the same every day of the week (partly because of the tourist economy, which the region is heavily dependant on, generates a consistent demand across the week) – i.e. a 7-day railway. However, for the time-being, the structure of the weekend timetables to be introduced will be:

  • the Saturday timetable will follow the weekday off-peak timing but without Rye Shuttles (as currently) but will include the new, later evening train services (see below); and
  • the Sunday service will be as Saturday but without the new, later evening service and the stopping pattern west of Hastings will be different.


Reducing overcrowding west of Hastings – One of Southern’s primary objectives was to solve the overcrowding experienced to the west of Hastings. It is hoped this will be partly achieved by what has become known as the Eastbourne Overlap:

  • when travelling westwards, a 4-car electric service will leave Hastings for Brighton shortly before the 2-car diesel service arrives from Rye, thereby reducing passenger numbers joining the diesel; but
  • the 2-car diesel service will stop at some additional intermediate stations (e.g. Collington, Cooden Beach) although it is noted these stations will induce their own traffic; but (also)
  • (although not ideal) MarshLink passengers wishing to travel to the west of Eastbourne can change train at Hampden Park (the station just before Eastbourne), cross over the bridge and pick up the earlier 4-car electric on its way out of Eastbourne – the connection time is 4 mins.


However, those who prefer the level, cross platform change at Eastbourne will be able to do so but will be subject to a longer journey time.


Later additional evening services on the MarshLink – There will be a one-hour later evening service, eastbound from Eastbourne (dep. Eastbourne 21.49; arr. Rye 22.48) and westbound (dep. Ashford 23.25; arr. Rye 23.46). This is an additional service MLAG has argued for for many years. These trains will run Monday to Saturday.


Resulting effects on journeys – westwards:


(1) All MarshLink services will stop at Ore– This has been an MLAG objective for several years with the particular benefit of providing a direct service to South Coast College’s Ore Valley Campus.


(2) Services at Winchelsea and Three Oaks –  There is an improvement in services to the smaller stations including a later evening stop at both stations. Another more subtle change is the stopping pattern at these stations will be re-phased. Currently, for example, a train leaves Winchelsea towards Rye and, as it arrives in Rye, a train departs for Winchelsea: in the new timetable, that train leaving Rye will not stop at Winchelsea but at Three Oaks.


(3) Rye to Eastbourne – the journey time will increase from about 45mins to 55 mins.


(4) Rye to Brighton – the current direct link between Rye and Brighton takes about 85 mins each way: the new journey times will be:

  • to Brighton, about 92 mins (changing at Hampden Park) with the following basic structure – dep. Rye xx.47; arr. Hampden Park xx.38; dep. HP xx.42; arr. Brighton xx.19;
  • to Brighton via Eastbourne, about 120 mins;
  • the return journey (without a beneficial change option at Hampden Park) will take about 105 mins. with a connection time at Eastbourne of 11 mins).


Resulting effects on journeys – eastwards:


(1) Rye to St.Pancras

– Morning peak connections onto the Javelin – The connecting train times will be different but the current connection intervals will be similar to now. However some commuters at the AGM ecxpressed dissatisfaction about these changes. It seems that these were necessary to permit the overall connection improvements as below.


– Improved off-peak connections at Ashford – The current off-peak connections onto the Javelin are not good – the objective was to improve these connections. The off-peak timetable now has the following improved basic pattern:

  • the up-train will dep. Rye xx.47; arr. Ashford xx.09; dep Ashford xx.16; arr. St.Pancras xx.54 – a journey time of 67 mins (currently 85 mins);
  • the down-train will dep. St.Pancras xx.37; arr. Ashford xx.14; dep. Ashford xx.24; arr. Rye xx.45 – a journey time of 68 mins (currently 78 mins); but, regrettably
  • the first off-peak service from Rye to St.Pancras (currently the 08.56) will be at 08.48 arriving St.Pancras (as currently) at 10.21 – so an increase in journey time of 8 mins.


(2) Rye to Charing Cross

Generally, the up-trains will be about 8 mins slower and the down trains about 8-minutes faster than currently – this is because the MarshLink trains will run a few minutes earlier than now. There will also be a later service available (as explained above). There are rumours that South Eastern may introduce an hourly faster service to Charing Cross with limited stops (in addition to the existing two stopping trains per hour). We will update you if we hear more.



MLAG thanks Phil, his team and Southern for agreeing to enter into detailed discussions with the rail action groups which, we trust, will resolve several of MLAG’s long-held Objectives – but not all, of course, and they will have to await future negotiations. The position that has been negotiated is not fixed for ever – there will be discrepancies to be resolved and improvements to be made when the timetables are next re-visited.

Links to the new timetables will be put on this site shortly.


It should also be remembered these discussions have been about timetables – we wait to see how these translate into train operations when other practical factors such as strikes, maintenance, weather and other such vagaries raise their heads.

Stuart Harland, Chairman MLAG