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Reigate MP Crispin Blunt hosted a meeting on the proposed 2018 rail timetable at Reigate & Banstead town hall on Friday 21 October.
The Conservative MP is president of the Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users Association (RRDRUA), and he was joined at the meeting by the group’s chair, Stephen Trigg.
Attendees included representatives from Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, Surrey County Council, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, and local business organisations.
The meeting was held to discuss a united response to Govia Thameslink Railway’s consultation into the draft timetable, which will be put in place when Thameslink upgrade works complete in December 2018.
Mr Blunt spoke of the importance of rail transport for residents commuting to London and other destinations, and for local businesses relying on employees travelling into the area to work. He said:
“The strength of the local economy is at stake if a fit-for-purpose local rail timetable and service is not implemented post-2018. House prices around the Brighton line are already being affected by the unreliable rail service, and local residents and businesses have threatened to move out of the area if the rail service does not improve.
Whilst the situation has been exacerbated by recent industrial action and strikes, the underlying service is currently unacceptably poor and responding to the GTR 2018 draft timetable consultation is an opportunity for all local stakeholders to present a united response to influence future improvements in the service.”
Stephen Trigg of RRDRUA provided data about the recent deteriorating history of rail services at local stations, explained the plans laid out by GTR in the consultation and suggested key areas that would need to be contested in order to influence improvement decisions. RRDRUA has already met with GTR to discuss the draft timetable.
Key issues outlined in the draft timetable that were said to need addressing are:
- the absence of regular direct rail services through Redhill to Brighton and the south coast: these services existed prior to 2014
- the lack of sufficient direct and connecting services between Reigate and London, considering the numbers of rail users at Reigate, many of whom currently drive to Redhill. (Under the proposals Reigate will lose its direct link to London Bridge, requiring a change at Redhill. Peak services to Victoria might be replaced with a more frequent shuttle to Redhill to pick up direct trains.)
- the absence of fast peak-time trains to London Bridge and Victoria: all proposed peak services will be slow stopping trains taking around 40 minutes. RRDRUA argues that eight trains per hour to London are required to meet passenger demand, not six
- the absence of peak time services from Earlswood and Salfords to Victoria.
According to the MP’s office, there was agreement at the session that an efficient and reliable service from local stations to London, after 2018, depends on infrastructure improvements, grouped around three projects:
- building of a new platform at Reigate that can take the 12-car Thameslink trains: Reigate could then be used as a terminus station for Thameslink direct trains to and from London and the north of the capital
- building of a northbound flyover at Stoats Nest (between Coulsdon South and Purley) to allow trains travelling to London on the Redhill line to cross over onto the fast track to improve journey times and reduce delays due to track congestion
- re-tracking and pointing of the area immediately to the south of Redhill Station, which currently causes major delays due to trains crossing outdated track crossovers and severe speed restrictions. This would also enable more efficient usage of platforms at Redhill and reduce train in-out times.
RRDRUA will be drawing up a joint response to the GTR Timetable Consultation, which closes on 8 December, and will be inviting the public to write to GTR to support this.
The group will also be looking at ways to influence future rail infrastructure investment decisions to prioritise those needed to improve local services.
Our previous article on the changes from a Reigate perspective, including a link to the consultation.
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