Friday, 5 December 2014

DEAL HS Services (Q&A Southeastern & Network Rail)

Yesterday I spoke to Southeastern and Network Rail managers at St Pancras at their 'Meet the Manager’ event and I thought you might like to read some of the main points we discussed.

Q: High-speed (HS) services from DEAL have dramatically reduced the journey time to London but line speed is still fairly slow up to Folkestone, can it be improved?

A: The track between Dover to Folkestone is built on chalk and clay next to cliffs which often have landslides, in fact the track actually moves slightly because of its geographical location. It would be incredibly difficult to improve line speed but we are improving land slide defences. The track between DEAL to Dover is a different matter and we could do something there to increase line speed, a decision would need to be made whether there is enough usage to make it commercially viable.

Q: HS services to DEAL often get delayed near Martin Mill due to late running mainline services, would upgrading signalling rectify this.

A: Over the next two years DEAL will lose its signal box and the existing signals will be modernised however the gap we need to maintain between trains will still be the same, so unfortunately it won't solve the problem. DEAL has become a commuter town in recent years however the infrastructure we are working with was built a long time ago.

Q: HS services will serve DEAL until 2018 but what happens after that? There has been a lot of speculation about a Manston Parkway station and Westenhager Parkway station.

A: Westenhanger Parkway station is unrealistic however Manston Parkway is still feasible. The good news for DEAL is now that HS services have been secured it would be very difficult to take them away post 2018 regardless of who runs the franchise.

Q: From January most peak services from DEAL will be additionally stopping at Ebbsfleet however they are often standing room only already from Ashford. Is this a wise decision?

A: If you look at the existing peak shuttle services to Ebbsfleet from St Pancras in the evening they are often very lightly used. We will be using more carriages on peak morning services via Canterbury West so I don’t think it will be a problem. However the sheer volume of passengers who want to get into London on these peak services does mean we have very little spare capacity. Ideally we need a few more class 395 units (HS trains) and that is a discussion we will be having with the Department for Transport.

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