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November 2010: Campaigning for better use of available train paths

ESRA petitions ORR to reallocate train paths denied to Brighton services

Letter sent from Belinda Fordham, on behalf of ESRA member organisations, to the Chief Executive of the Office of Rail Regulation

Mr W Emery
Chief Executive, Office of Rail Regulation
One Kemble Street London WC2B 4AN

Dear Mr Emery


On behalf of the long suffering commuters of East Sussex, the East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) welcomes and thanks the ORR for its recent intervention in relation to Southern’s proposal to run additional services between London Victoria and Brighton.

The services on the East Coastway have suffered since outcomes of the BML RUS resulted in a revised timetable from December 2008. Longer journey times, poor performance and significant overcrowding have had a significant detrimental affect on the commuting public and the economic growth and regeneration of the area, with some commuters relocating. Had the proposal been sanctioned this would have led to a combined total of 8 trains an hour off-peak between London and Brighton, with Southern and First Capital Connect each operating four trains within a one hour period. From long standing anecdotal evidence, and last year’s passenger counts it is evident that there is insufficient passenger demand for such a high level of service, and that the proposal by Southern was instead motivated by competition for revenue.

Many BML services run under-capacity providing a faster, cheaper service than can be attained on the East Coastway. Evidence demonstrate that there is significant over-crowding on the East Coastway and whilst Southern have attempted to address this, their solutions still fall far short of Passenger Focus’ objective, that “no passenger should stand for more than 20 minutes other than by choice.”

The situation is compounded by the service now being shared with the West Coastway and the coupling and de-coupling of units at Haywards Heath.

Therefore, the priority should be to provide additional capacity on London services on the East Coastway route to meet both current and future demands.

ESRA has been lobbying Southern and other stakeholders to improve the East Coastway service, by providing a separate half-hourly service from the West Coastway, and to provide at least one fast train per hour.

Hitherto this been rebuffed on the grounds of insufficient paths, so now there is a real opportunity to deliver this. With your intervention further evaluation can be undertaken which will ratify where demand lies and in turn lead to a more rational and equitable allocation of paths in the future.

Assuming a maximum 10 paths per hour, ESRA would suggest that an equitable balance would be 6 paths an hour between Brighton and London, with 2 paths an hour each on East and West Coastway services to facilitate a faster, less over-crowded service and once and for all discontinue the antiquated attaching and dividing trains at Haywards Heath.

We look forward to your thoughts and advice in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Belinda Fordham
On behalf of East Sussex Rail Alliance

Cc: Norman Baker MP, Stephen Lloyd MP, Amber Rudd MP, Greg Barker MP

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