On |Wednesday this week I went along with reps from the other business organisations to a meeting in Haywards Heath requested by Network Rail to disseminate information about what is happening and why on our rail network.
As you would expect, I was intrigued … I never heard of rail operators actually meeting up with the public to discuss problems. I assumed that the policy has always been to keep passengers in the dark as much as possible about issues to do with rail travel. However, when Orlagh Ennis, the Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Brighton Main Line Improvement Project, turned up at the meeting it quickly became clear that she was one of a new group engaged by Network Rail to actually go out and try to explain to the general public what is going on. They have clearly decided to improve customer relations.They aim to build trust through transparency.
Orlagh was an excellent communicator and gave us lots of information which presumably would previously have been denied to the public. Of course, the main thrust of the news she brought was bad for the immediate future of rail travel, but her point was really that in nine months time rail travel from Brighton would be much improved.
Between now and May 2019 Network Rail is replacing or rennovating the track, points, signal systems and tunnels on the main line between Brighton and Three Bridges. It will mean major disruption to services. It will have a severe effect on people who commute from stations in Mid Sussex. They intend to upgrade the whole system (at last some investment in infrastructure) .
The blunt truths are that…
- there will be 15 weekend closures between September 18th and April 19th, when only replacement buses will be available
- there wil be a 9-day closure in February, from Sat 16th to Sun 24th when no trains will run from Brighton to Three Bridges or Lewes
- there will it seems be no compensation for season ticket holders
- they have contacted B&HAlbion to let them know that seven home games will be seriously impacted
- they have contacted the people running Brighton Half Marathon too
- the whole system will be upgraded
- by the end of May it will be finished and work properly so that s many as 15 trains an hour will run in commute times
- I asked her if this meant that people would no longer have to stand on journey to London she answered ‘Yes’
No doubt there may be further problems and issues in the future but I suppose you have to say that Network Rail are at last making an effort to become public-friendly. They now have a PR department! It sounds horrendous when you look at the next nine months, but it just may be that the whole thing will be brought up to date so that it works efficiently. Maybe we will soon be able to travel abroad without making invidious comparisons between the rail system in Japan/France/Austria/Germany and our own battered system. You never know!
Plan ahead with BrightonMainLine.co.uk for all the information
Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Brighton Main Line Improvement Project