Friday, 30 November 2018

Guildford-Horsham is a strategic missing rail link needing rebuilding

Dear Richard and Simon,
I thought you would welcome feedback on the Redhill meeting.
There were getting on for 40 people at the meeting.
The basic reason of the Railfure meeting was to give Network Rail's 
representative, Andrew Brown, the oppotunity to give updates on  the 
progress so far and future (closure) plans for the line south of Three 
Bridges over weekends and one 9 day blockade during the February half 
term 2019.
Andrew also gave an update on the planned improvements to the North 
Downs line to achieve 3 trains per hour.
Andrew Brown gave a very good presentation, and Railfure will be 
e-mailing me with the contents of the presentation plus the notes made 
by one of their members, which I can forward if required.
I think Railfuture is different from the ERTA in that they seem to be 
keen on getting short term improvements to the network with no longer 
term plans- certainly not for re-openings.
At the end of the presentation there was the oppotunity to ask questions.
Most questions supported my view mentioned above, in that there were 
moans about inadequate bustitution, poor connecting services, badly 
informed staff, short trains, lack of fast trains to London,- the usual 
regular rail user points of view. Andrew deflected a lot of this as the 
responsibility of the train operationg companies.
There was one question asked about Network Rail's view on the BM2 line 
and re-opening Lewes to Uckfield.
Andrew commented that the business case for BM2 had not been proved and 
the re-opening of Lewes to Ukfield represented poor value for money, so 
Network Rail were not involved in that idea at the moment. He did say 
that had that link already existed, it would make managing the Brighton 
main line upgrade a lot easier as would the Arundel curve if it existed. 
This curve would mean the train diversion would not have to go down the 
Arun valley line through Horsham to Littlehampton and the back east 
along the coastal route to Brighton.( I notice the Arundel curve is not 
listed in the 33 schemes on the re-opening pamphlet.)
When my turn came to ask a question I intoduced myself as a member of 
the ERTA and took the oppotunity to outline the aims of ERTA- especially 
improving rail transport by supporting and promoting rail re-openings. I 
said the Guildford- Horsham- Shoreham re-opening long term was one of 
the ERTA aims and said to Andrew that had it never been closed it would 
have given him a double track main line from Three Brigdes to Shorehan 
via Horsham to play with in planing the engineering closures and the 
Arundel chord would not be needed. After my short speech I thought I had 
better ask my question to Andrew which was "Why is electrification of 
the Reigate- Guildford section not part of the North Downs Line upgrade 
plan".
Andrews answer was that third rail electrification, apart from short 
sections in new depots, was considered to be a serious health and safety 
risk these days and therefore unlikely to be approved. He also said 
electricification in general was now under review due improvements in 
bi-mode and battery technology and escalating costs.
Others at the meeting chipped in with comments in support of the 
Reigate- Guildford idea and the general feeling was that it was good 
idea. The Railfuture chairman said he thought the idea made 
absolutelcommon sense, with the remark that when did common sense ever 
have an influence on rail investment decisions?
I was invited to respond to Andrew's answer but I didn't want to take up 
more time as there were several others waiting to put their questions.
However my follow on comments would have been.
1/ Vast areas of the SE and lines into the West Country and north of 
London and the Underground are already third rail so why would say 15 
miles of additional third rail swing the fatalities statistcs significantly.
2/ What actually are the fatality statistics for the last year /10 years 
and does Ian Prosser's rail saftey executive have a published report on 
third rail risks?
3/ Additional journey oppotunies would be created if the Thameslink 
service planned to Reigate (the plan is for a third  platform there to 
handle the fixed formation 12 car trains) went on to Guildford. No new 
bi-mode or battery stock would be required.
It was a good and enjoyable meeting.
After the meeting finished I was askes about what the ERTA was.
I guided those interested in finding out more the the ERTA website.
Although I had all of Richard's recent attachments with me- GCR 
re-opening, the list of 33 rail re-openings, maps of connections from 
East-West south to Heathrow etc, I felt to bring this up was not right 
for the aims of Railfuture in calling the meeting.
Went from Horsham to Redhill and back on the train. No problems. The 
return journey was my first ride on the new Thameslink 12 car rolling 
stock on the new Peterborough to Horsham service.  Warm, fast but 
undoubtably designed to shift a lot of passengers at the same time.
SteveB

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