02 JAN 2016

Working hard to get our railway back on track

The failure of the sea wall by the Dover to Folkestone railway line on Christmas Eve will cause months of disruption for rail users. I am doing all I can to ensure the repairs are carried out as quickly as possible.

Ensuring the stability of the sea wall is essential. So it's hard to understand how this could have happened. There should be regular inspection and maintenance on an exposed section like this. Nearby residents have told me that the level of shingle has been falling all year and the footings have been exposed for some time. So I am pressing Network Rail on the inspection and maintenance record - especially after what happened at Dawlish.

The bigger question is how long the repairs will take. This is not a small sea wall failure. It looks like some 200m of sea wall has failed and will need repair. This is a very big project. So already I am making the case to Network Rail and the Rail Minister that the repairs need to be carried up as quickly as possible.

The sea wall failure does not just affect Dover. It also has a serious impact on Deal and the Dover villages. Deal has benefitted from the fast train we fought so hard to get. It is a town with many commuters and fast train visitors who have boosted the local economy and helped Deal to enjoy more success. The sea wall failure will mean that services from Deal will be slower.

I am very conscious how difficult this will make life for rail users. I am doing all I can to hurry the repairs. Yet I am also discussing with Southeastern Trains and Network Rail whether fast services can go from Deal using the Manston Loop. This would reduce lost time but will be a real timetable challenge to make work.

A number of people have been in contact with their ideas on what can be done. Do please email me with your ideas too. I would particularly like to hear from season ticket holders to explore what particular measures can be done to help them from train rerouting to ride sharing.

I know how important it is to ensure these problems are worked on swiftly as most rail users will go back to work next week and I want to ensure a clear plan is in place by then. Not withstanding that we are trying to put a plan together over the Christmas period when many people in the rail industry are also away.

The failure of the sea wall on the Dover to Folkestone stretch of railway is a real worry. Yet I am doing all I can to get to fixed as soon as possible. I am doing all I can to see rail services rerouted and working hard to minimise the impact on rail travellers. The next few months will be very testing. Yet with good planning ahead I hope that it will be as quick as possible and that travellers will suffer the least possible disruption.

3 comments

Keep on top of it Charlie. You & the diligent Nigel Collor are pushing hard. Pity South Eastern can't get their Dover-Ramsgate shuttle to marry up with Ramsgate -St Pancras timetable.
- Maggie Kennedy

Whilst it goes without saying that the Manston Loop should be used where possible (and they really ought to marry up their timetables) please bear in mind that that route is pretty much zero use to people in Dover and highly sub-optimal, to say the least, for people in Deal. The overriding priority must be to get the line fixed as early as possible. As far as I can tell the Dawlish line took less than 2 months to fix. Can we expect to see a similar degree of urgency with our line?
- James Gee

I'm not sure whether you can bring any influence but 3 days into our return to work 3 of my 5 train journeys (Dover to/from Stratford Int) have been disrupted over and above the need to catch buses. This morning and yesterday the early morning trains were held up due to another train occupying the platform at Folkestone Central which left 20 minutes late yesterday and nearly 15 minutes late today. We were told this train was being delayed, but with no reason given. There is very little shelter at Folkestone Central and the platform was packed with people (getting soaked yesterday). Also the timing of bus services to Folkestone to connect with a service has resulted in several trains full of people using a single service, with passengers standing at Folkestone, The delays in the morning were compounded with a horrendous journey home last night, which entailed catching a train from Stratford which then sat at Ashford for sometime, having been told they were waiting for a driver from another service to arrive. We were then told as there was no available driver the train was being cancelled. As they had already cancelled the following high speed train we had a 40 minute delay at Ashford to get to Folkestone, at which point onward travelers still needed to get buses. A train was due to arrive with a driver, and I suspect that had the train then left it would have been late going back out the other way affecting performance percentages, but given the current situation surely the impact on customers should be taken into account? The delay was compounded by the fact that buses are running to some sort of timetable, but aren't necessarily meeting trains, which I do not understand at all (if it is a rail replacement service shouldn't a bus be there ready to meet trains?) If you are able to raise these issues with Southeastern it would be greatly appreciated, as, apart from the bus issue the information being given to customers and service continuity is very poor - there should be buses to take you to the station, and you should then be able to board a train immediately. All these issues are within their control. Thanks in advance for any influence you might be able to bring to bear.
- Jackie Childs

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Charlie Elphicke

Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!

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