Commitment to longer Uckfield line trains ‘at risk’

Longer Uckfield line trains promised by December 2016 are now at risk, it has been claimed.

The longer trains are required as part of the new franchise to operate the line.

National campaign group Railfuture said at a presentation to stakeholders by operator Govia Thameslink the company was only able to say “additional capacity will be provided as soon as possible to relieve crowding on the busy Uckfield route.

“Timing will depend on when suitable diesel rolling stock becomes available (likely to be after electrification elsewhere in the UK).”

Franchise requires longer Uckfield line trains

According to Railfuture this could be resolved IF the government announces funding in this year’s Autumn Statement to electrify the 24-mile Uckfield branch.  Thirty-two Turbostar carriages, of the same type as taken recently by Chiltern Railways from already-crowded TransPennine Express services, could then be released to congested northern routes.

Railfuture vice-chairman Chris Page said “The new franchise requires longer Uckfield line trains from December 2016 to provide sorely-needed extra capacity on this fast-growing route into East Croydon and London Bridge.

Electrification of Uckfield line is ‘high value’

“This would require 14 extra diesel carriages to come from routes being electrified, in northern regions which still need those trains for growth elsewhere on their routes.

“But the new Govia Thameslink franchise is unable to say when it might get any for the Uckfield line and cannot commit to that December 2016 date.  Yet everyone knows that electrification of the Uckfield line is a higher-value long-term infrastructure investment than the mere platform-lengthening currently planned.”

The 25-mile MarshLink route in East Sussex and Kent will be electrified within the next five years or so as part of Network Rail’s comprehensive upgrade to extend Southeastern highspeed services off HS1 from Ashford International to Bexhill via Rye and Hastings.

That will release 12 more diesel Turbostar carriages, so hard-pressed commuters across northern England would get 44 modern diesel carriages to relieve crowding as soon as these two short routes in Kent and East Sussex are electrified.

Commuters in the south will lose out

London & South East Vice-Chairman Roger Blake added: “If Network Rail and the DfT can only argue about the type of electrification to Uckfield while no-one knows when or from where any extra diesel carriages will come, then southern commuters will continue to lose out and northern commuters also face losing out yet again with a repeat of the anger when 18 of their TransPennine carriages were transferred to Chiltern.

“Third-rail electrification of the Uckfield line, like the rest of the Southern network, will be cheaper and quicker than waiting for overhead wires, and new electric trains continue to roll off Derby production lines every week.”

Call on Chancellor to make pledge in Autumn Statement

Railfuture is calling on the “the Chancellor and the Transport Secretary, still fresh from his March commitment to electrify MarshLink for ‘Highspeed Hastings’, to commit funding this autumn to electrify the Uckfield line and send the modern and recently-refurbished diesels north.

“That way commuting constituents benefit whether they’re in the Home or provincial counties and cities.”

Railfuture is an independent national voluntary organisation campaigning for better rail services and expansion of the rail network.  More details can be found at www.railfuture.org.uk.

See also:

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