3 April 2018
Major changes from 20th May
From 20 May, entirely new timetables will be applied across the whole of the Govia Thameslink network – so Great Northern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and, in particular for us, Southern Railways. This means that all passengers who use these services will be affected as their usual journey time or pattern will change. So it is important that you check the new timetables at www.railplan2020.com/timetables.
Southern started their public consultation process in September 2016 and say this is part of the biggest train timetable change in decades and is necessary to help increase capacity and improve reliability on the busiest part of the UK rail network. Both of these objectives are relevant to the needs of MarshLink services.
To have a robust timetable it is necessary to have reliable rolling stock: as we have lamented over recent years, the MarshLink is wholly dependent on Class 171 diesel units which are not old but are going through a period of increasingly poor performance resulting in capacity and reliability issues.
The Ashford – Brighton route has been cut at Eastbourne with several objectives: one objective is to release a unit to act as additional support in the event of a unit failure and avoid the need to cancel the Shuttle (although there would inevitably be some disruption during the changeover hiatus). Talks continue on where to locate the “spare” unit – MLAG wants to see it located on the coast for immediate deployment (when not at Selhurst, its maintenance home, undergoing its scheduled maintenance).
MLAG is very conscious that early morning commuters to London via Ashford onto the Javelin service have issues with the timetable changes – they emphasise the timing of the current service is already good for them. This is, understandably, the case with a Rye – St. Pancras travel time of about 64 mins. But to provide better services across the rest of the day (when the standard travel time is currently 85 mins, reducing to 67 mins with the new timetable), Southern has had to make changes to some of the early morning services. The specific problem for early morning commuters is that (although the timings of the first two train services are unchanged) the immediately following two services have issues surrounding them. The first of those two services requires them to feed into a Javelin service that is (currently) only 6-cars with standing room only when it arrives at Ashford: alternatively, the next service from Rye is a Shuttle and therefore with added concern it won’t run in the event of a unit failure.
In previous press releases during the consultation phases, MLAG has endeavoured to explain some of the other changes being made and we will return to those explanations as we approach 20 May.