Letter: Congestion issues on rail network

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After seeing your article on page 76 about the idea of a North Horsham Parkway Station I would like to put my concerns across to those who may be interested.

I was employed locally by Connex and Southern for 15 years, finishing as one of the supervisors at Horsham Station and often got involved in talks with the planning department concerned with the running of trains in and out of the area.

One of the things that used to come up on a regular basis was the Portsmouth Main Line (that’s the line which runs from Horsham to London via Dorking and not as supposed the ‘Branch’ Line which runs between Horsham and Three Bridges) and why it was not used more, especially on engineering weekends when the line to Three Bridges was closed (as in the days of Connex and British Rail the coast bound services where diverted via Sutton / Epsom Fast to Horsham), the answer used to be congestion.

The line is a big problem due to the old signalling system and running restrictions. Despite the closure and removal of the signal box at Warnham the full block still remains, Horsham to Holmwood and Holmwood to Dorking IF the signal box there is manned (very very rare), which means ONLY one train at anytime within the block sections, the line speed is also lower than the Branch Line, which means that in reality only one train is allowed to run between Horsham and Dorking and Dorking to Horsham at any one time, unlike the automatic signalling which allows one train to run in each signal section.

The journey time between Horsham and Dorking is around 30 minutes, therefore the line could only reasonably cope with two trains an hour unless there is serious upgrading of that line which would cost Network Rail some serious money.

The next problem is north of Leatherhead. The capacity is full. What with SWT and Southern competing for line space with the Dorking, Guildford, Epsom services to London, then further along the Wimbledon, Bedford, Epsom Downs services joining the Main Line for space. This was one of the reasons in removing the Leatherhead to London services to allow better running.

Most of the line from Leatherhead north towards London is also restricted to 60mph and the amount of bottlenecks at junctions, where delays can happen due to late running services, still continues to cause more problems even after the upgrades that Network Rail have invested in some of the areas.

Next problem is once the service gets to London, which terminus does it go to? London Victoria is overstretched now, London Bridge is currently undergoing refurbishment finally for the ‘Thameslink 2000 plan’ and capacity is going to be an issue?

Return to running a service to Charing Cross or worse Cannon Street? As most passengers when you offer them London Bridge look at you blankly and seem frightened that they should go there instead of London Victoria I doubt if you would get a good response (even though the links to the shopping, main visitor attractions and tube network are far superior these days).

Finally putting a service along the Portsmouth Line brings up another issue, the stopping pattern. To make an increase in service viable and acceptable, the service would more than likely have to be a stopping service (especially when it gets to the London area and falls into the interference of the dreaded ‘Transport for London’) currently the journey time of the service along this line is approx 1hr 15mins, a lot slower than the Bognor / Portsmouth / Southampton services to London and just a little slower than the Horsham to London via Gatwick stoppers. Would people be prepared to use such a slow service?

As already pointed out Network Rail have made it clear that only one new station will be built in the Horsham / Crawley area with the closure of either Warnham or Faygate stations as a result.

At the moment Kilnwood Vale is under full construction whilst the North Horsham dreaded estate is under discussion, unless a decision is made and a firm binding contractual promise is made it would be pointless to speculate that a new Parkway station will be built along that line and I for one would not count on it happening.

KEVAN MITCHELL

Longfield Road, Horsham