Wealden MP Charles Hendry has been in “continuous correspondence” with rail operator Southern over the “sub-standard” service on the Uckfield Line.
Mr Hendry (pictured), whose constituency covers many of the stations on the line, told UckfieldNews.com he had highlighted to the company the “terrible service interruptions” constituents have suffered this year.
He said: “I do recognise that Southern have faced some significant issues due to the changes at London Bridge, their biggest terminal, which are largely out of their control, but this said, they have delivered a sub-standard service and they have acknowledged this.
“There is also an issue of premature termination of some services at Crowborough; to help maintain the service elsewhere on the line (which is of course single track).”
Stakeholder relations manager for Southern, Yvonne Leslie, told Mr Hendry a number of issues had affected the diesel fleet since the new year, culminating with a four-coach unit hitting a tree on the Uckfield Line at 04:45 on January 15 after the gales.
“This was out of service for over a week as it required fairly extensive repairs. All of the coaches were damaged in some way.
“The engine was punctured, part of the fibreglass shell was ripped off and the nose was damaged.
“The coupler had to be replaced and the wheels re-profiled.
Limited number of diesels
“This meant we did not have the full number of coaches required for the planned service on all days but we did do as much of the routine exams and maintenance as possible over the weekend and off peak to allow for as many coaches as possible to be available for the peak services,” she said.
She pointed out Southern has only a limited number of diesel trains available which means the fleet is worked “particularly hard”.
‘Underlying very good record for reliability’
“To provide the maximum capacity, our train plan only allows for six coaches to be ‘stopped’ at any one time to ensure we are able to carry out essential maintenance. This means that any other issue immediately leaves us short of rolling stock.
“The diesel fleet has an underlying very good record for reliability. However, a number of failures, along with some infrastructure problems, and the damage caused by the tree unfortunately led to some short formations.
“More recently the fleet has returned to the regular patter of just six coaches ‘stopped’ at any one time for regular examinations and maintenance.
“Finally, it is expected that the additional units will arrive in the spring when they will be overhauled before going into service,” she said.
* An online petition has been set up on the government website to push for improvements on the Uckfield Line.
It says: “To force Network Rail & Southern Rail to review the service, their service levels, consider how they can deliver and implement a proper fit for purpose rail service to their existing & future customers and especially the season ticket holders, who pay and suffer every day.
“The excuse of London Bridge causing the issues is no longer acceptable as we all know that it’s a rolling stock issue and a lack of overall investment in this line. London Bridge upgrades will not increase capacity, rolling stock, or investment in the Uckfield Line. It’s time this line is future proofed.”
The e-petition was set up by Guy Mucci