Thursday, 20 March 2014

Getting back on track

Commuters and local businesses are getting increasingly frustrated and angered by the delay to fixing the landslip on the Hastings-Charing Cross line. We have not had a full train service on this line since before Christmas.

Despite promises that it would re-open earlier in the month the landslip at Whatlington has still not been fixed meaning a disrupted train journey with a bus ride between Robertsbridge and Battle. Network Rail have given up setting dates for re-opening the line and are now saying it will be closed “till further notice.”

This is just not acceptable. It is hard enough on local residents who commute to London, or who need to use the line for other trips, business and pleasure, but Easter will be upon us shortly, and we will then be into the summer season. No-one wanting a day trip to the seaside will choose to travel on a rail replacement bus service, and the continued closure of the line could have a potentially serious effect on our visitor economy.

So I’ve written to Network Rail, who are responsible for the rail infrastructure, expressing my concerns. The importance of this route to Hastings is obvious it is our mainline, our rail lifeline to the capital. Although not as high profile as the Great Western main line, it is nevertheless vital to us. I have said in my letter that I hope that the line has not been given a lower priority just because the Whatlington landslip is not as photogenic or as accessible as the line at Dawlish which was washed away by the sea.

Dawlish has in fact been given a date for re-opening – 4th April. Unless Network Rail makes urgent progress the Hastings line could be closed longer than that.
I must stress that I am not critical of the staff and contractors who continue to work in difficult conditions on the ground trying to repair the line. My criticism is of the lack of maintenance and planning which continues to give us timetables for the line's reopening which are then broken.

 I have sent a copy of my letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, as if necessary the Department of Transport should be approached to help fund the necessary re pair work. The prime minister said money would be no object to deal with the aftermath of flooding and  the weather has caused just as much damage to our rail links.

For a main line to be closed indefinitely with no firm date set for its reopening is just not good enough. Our town, our residents and our visitors deserve better. And I will keep pressing Network Rail to fix it until further notice