The new timetable – the journey to Eastbourne and beyond

Press Statement by Stuart Harland, MLAG Chairman

An Opinion piece in last week’s Rye News (see http://www.ryenews.org.uk/opinions/what-do-we-do-about-southern ) raised a question about travel to the west of Rye – this makes a bit of a change from questions about the service to St.Pancras. In response, I said MLAG would endeavour to release articles on specific routes/ issues running up to the start of the new timetable on 20 May and this is one of those.

In the article it was said that, following the timetable changes, passengers bound for stations to the west of Eastbourne:

“will be forced to get off at Eastbourne [note, not now Hastings] and then wait for half-an-hour for another west-going train ……. A journey of an hour and a half if going all the way to Brighton, now becomes two hours”

The brief, immediate response given in a responding Comment to the above point (see the same link as above) was that  “the journey to Brighton will increase from 85 mins to 92 mins (depending on the “Eastbourne Overlap” – ………. an athletic exercise which may not appeal to all); the return journey will increase from about 83 mins to 105 mins.”

Some explanation is required. Firstly a potted history – just go to the following paragraph if you’ve heard this all before.

A couple of years ago, Southern was determined to cut the current Ashford – Brighton service, they proposed at Hastings. MLAG and many respondents to their Consultation objected: Southern’s response was that the trains to the west of Hastings were too crowded and a cut was essential. MLAG objected to any cutting of the service, suggesting the problem was brought about by inappropriate equipment operating the service (i.e. the two-car diesels should be replaced by longer train sets): this argument has been running for years but, in essence, Southern/ Department for Transport were not amenable to changing the equipment and so, eventually, that issue was conceded, for now. The next discussion was where to turn around the service: MLAG was supported by local interests in Rye and argued the turnaround should be at Eastbourne. That was eventually conceded in theory by Southern but still left us with an overcrowded train between Hastings and Eastbourne. The solution proposed (yet to be tested as resolving the situation) is the “Eastbourne Overlap” (see below) but it has been built into the new timetables.

Now we can revert to an explanation of the new timetable between Rye and Brighton:

(A) Rye to Brighton

The route to Brighton can be via Eastbourne (which would take about 2 hrs including a connection time of about 30 mins at Eastbourne, as suggested in the Opinion piece referred to earlier) or via Hampden Park (which would take about 92 mins using the Eastbourne Overlap).

The theory behind the Eastbourne Overlap is that approx. 15 mins before the diesel train from Rye arrives at Hastings, an Electrostar service leaves Hastings for Brighton (hopefully taking most of the westward-bound passengers with it). The train from Rye arrives at Hastings, picks up fewer passengers than it would otherwise have done and continues westward but stopping additionally at some of the intermediate stations such as Collington. When the Rye diesel train arrives at Hampden Park, passengers for stations to the west of Eastbourne change trains and catch the Electrostar coming out of Eastbourne (that is, the train that left Hastings 15 mins before the Rye train arrived). A few issues arise – the connection time is only 4 mins; the On Board Supervisor/ Guard (still a continuing issue but we’ll park that for now) should advise passengers about the connection and if there are any issues with it (if no announcement, please ask); the need to get off the train, cross the bridge with whatever they may be transporting with them in four minutes (the “athletic exercise” referred to earlier).

(B) Brighton to Rye

The first point to note is that the Eastbourne Overlap does not work in this direction so it is necessary to change at Eastbourne – a level change (without stairs). But this connection time is 10 mins (somewhat shorter than in the other direction) and so the overall journey time is about 105 mins (but still 22 mins longer than currently).

(C) Services between Rye and Eastbourne

Because of the additional stops between Hastings and Eastbourne, the Rye – Eastbourne services are slower – the current journey takes about 45 mins and, under the new timetable, it will be about 57 mins.

Other issues

MLAG has heard rumours that the current declassification of the MarshLink service (i.e. that the first class compartment is available to all) will terminate with the new timetable. We understand this is not the case and, despite the need to change trains, the whole of the existing service between Ashford and Brighton will remain declassified. We await formal confirmation of this from Southern.