Last October, CrowboroughLife told you about plans to introduce extra capacity to ease overcrowding for rail passengers travelling from Crowborough by lengthening trains and platforms. Southern Rail has now taken delivery of 12 additional carriages and they are being assessed to see what work is required before they can be introduced.
Our commitment is to introduce 10 carriage trains onto the Uckfield line when the platforms have been lengthened by Network Rail. In the meantime the plan for the additional 12 diesel carriages, which we have now received, is to put them through a multi-million pound internal and external overhaul to make them compatible with our current fleet, and fit for purpose. We are currently doing a detailed engineering assessment of these trains to understand all of the work required. When this is done, we will be able to programme in the work – some internally at our depots, some by external suppliers. This will include work on the engines and wheelsets, as well as modifications to make the trains compatible with our existing diesel fleet, such as changes to the door mechanisms, driver’s cab system and couplers, and new electronics to allow the additional units to ‘communicate’ with our current trains which at the moment they are unable to. This is a complex task as the trains we have received, whilst looking similar to our existing fleet, are technically very different.
In order to accommodate the longer trains, Network Rail has confirmed they will start work on lengthening the platforms on the line in a couple of months. Work will begin at Uckfield station and then they intend to roll the work out along the line. Network Rail had wanted to gain access to Uckfield Station via Hempstead Meadows Local Nature Reserve but the Town Council refused because of ecological concerns.
As it’s a phased approach, they say some stations will be finished before others, but all eight stations (Uckfield, Buxted, Crowborough, Eridge, Ashurst, Cowden, Hever and Edenbridge Town) should be completed by late next summer.
With regard to Crowborough, Network Rail are extending both platforms at the station to accommodate 10 carriage trains – they say this is not a simple task as it requires moving signalling equipment and a siding. The new platform at Eridge will also be able to fit 10 carriage trains and again various pieces of equipment will need to be relocated as a result.
The longer trains will obviously allow greater capacity on the line – which may in turn lead to more passengers. Over a year ago Crowborough and District Chamber of Commerce came up with a scheme to create further parking spaces along Farningham Road by using the land between the industrial estate and the railway line.
Network Rail have looked at the scheme and think the work that would be required to strengthen the side of the railway cutting would make the project unviable given the number of spaces that would be created.
Responding to the news Jeremy Woolgar President & Chairman of the Chamber said:
We are obviously very disappointed that Network Rail have drawn this conclusion. The Chamber would challenge that the number of spaces created makes the scheme unviable. We submitted two proposals, the lesser of the two with parallel parking would have created in the region of 40-50 new spaces, the option for ‘nose in’ parking would have created between 75 and 100 spaces. Either would add significant additional capacity to parking at the station and would go some way to alleviate the on-street parking currently causing problems in the area, in particular Farningham Road, Western Road and Burdett Road.
The group developing the Neighbourhood Plan for Crowborough is also currently thinking about how the number of spaces might be increased for rail passengers. You can read more in the minutes of the Commercial Group on 3rd June.
Have Your Say
At present the line has to rely on second-hand diesel carriages. Surely the long-term answer to address capacity problems is to electrify and re-double the line. Network Rail intend to publish a document setting-out priorities for future electrification this summer – rail passengers locally will have to hope the Uckfield line will be included in the strategy.
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