Passengers quiz rail bosses after ‘worst winter’

TRAIN passengers affected by the chaos caused by landslips on the Hastings line earlier in the year will have the chance to quiz transport bosses at a public meeting later this month.

Southeastern services are now back to normal after what has been dubbed the worst winter for rail travellers this century, with multiple landslips causing delays on the Hastings to London line for a number of weeks.

But the need to improve the service for commuters and leisure travellers remains high, says Bob Baker, chair of pressure group TWDRTA (Tunbridge Wells and District Rail Travellers’ Association).

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Passengers using the line from Battle, Robertsbridge, Etchingham and Crowhurst stations are being invited to TWDRTA’s annual meeting at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells on Tuesday May 20 at 7pm, where members will press for a more punctual, reliable and affordable service.

Among those answering questions will be Southeastern’s public affairs manager Mike Gibson, alongside Councillor Alan McDermott and Bartholomew Wren, whose responsibilities at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council include public transport and economic development.

TWDRTA, which played a leading role in the successful demand for goodwill payments following the winter disruption, also campaigns for cleaner trains and stations, and action to reduce overcrowding.

Mr Baker, who recently outlined passengers’ concerns at a meeting with Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, said: “For more than 20 years our members have been vocal in demanding that rail companies should be focused on, and responsive to, the needs of customers.

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“The importance of supporting groups such as ours has been clearly demonstrated over the past few months when the service was so poor.

“And it’s vital that travellers’ interests continue to be represented at the highest level.”

There were three serious embankment slips on the Hastings to London line this year - one near the Marley Lane level crossing in Battle on January 30, on the Whatlington Viaduct on February 3 and near Stonegate on February 9.

Replacement bus services were drafted in, but some criticised the services for failing to stick to a timetable and link up with train services further up the line.

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Network Rail engineers worked around-the-clock and the company had hoped to fully reopen the route in early March, only for the Whatlington slip to move again.

The line finally opened between Battle and Robertsbridge on March 31.