The Anonymous Widower

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey?

I enjoyed my trip yesterday to Sheerness, that I wrote about in A Trip To Sheppey.

It was a change to go to the island for a walk by the sea, as normally in the past, I’d gone for a funeral of some of my late wife’s relatives.

As someone, who partly grew up in Felixstowe, a lot of what I saw was all too familiar.

Sheerness station has some good points.

  • It is a short walk from the sea front.
  • It has two platforms, that can take eight-car trains.
  • The service of two trains per hour (tph) to Sittingbourne station is adequate in terms of frequency, but possibly not capacity.
  • The junction with the Chatham Main Line allows trains to go to Sittingbourne or the Medway Towns and London.
  • There are a few direct trains to and from London in the Peak.
  • The staff I met, were welcoming and competent.

But the station is pitifully short of facilities and if ever there was a station that needed an imaginative makeover it is Sheerness station.

Felixstowe station was a similar basket case and they converted it into a mini-shopping centre. At least Sheerness has a decent train service, which is twice the frequency and four times the capacity of the rail service between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

Sheerness itself has the air of a town that has seen better days, which I’ve seen in places like Blackpool, Felixstowe, Hastings, Redcar and Yasrmouth in the past and also in the last few years.

As a coeliac, I didn’t find anywhere that could sell me a gluten-free meal, so lunch was just a banana and the worst cup of tea, I’ve ever been served in the UK.

But is help at hand?

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Maynard cites importance of rail links to coastal towns talks about how the new Rail Minister thinks good rail links to coastal towns are important.

When I was staying with my parents in Felixstowe in the early 1960s, because there were only a few trains a day, I felt trapped and usually stayed at our other house in London.

So I know how it feels to have poor rail links to coastal towns, which often lack the facilities people need.

Good rail links also attract visitors and visitors these days, often come with those two space-eaters on trains; buggies and bicycles.

But it’s not just coastal towns that have this problem, it’s also branch lines that go into scenic countryside too.

Improving The Train Service To The Coast And The Hills

Coastal and hill towns like Sheerness and others like Blackpool, Clitheroe, Colne, Cromer, Felixstowe, Harwich, Walton-on-the-Naze and Yarmouth, often have rail services with a variety of needs.

  • Leisure traffic with lots of buggies and bicycles.
  • Commuter traffic in the peaks.
  • Daytime shoppers.
  • Evening travellers going to and from the cinema, theatre and nightlife of the bigger towns.

As many coastal towns are in flat country, many travellers might be easily tempted to ride to the station.

I’ve not seen any figures, but I suspect that passenger numbers are strongly driven by the weather and events.

This leads me to the belief that coastal towns need a turn-up-and-go service to the local major town or city, using a train designed for the job.

The Leisure/Commuter Train

We need a properly-designed train, that caters for the needs of leisure and commuter traffic.

  • Probably four-cars with the usual facilities.
  • Lots of space for bicycles and buggies.
  • Preferably with the capacity to travel perhaps fifty kilometres without electrification.

Something like most later Electrostars and the new Aventras could be suitably configured.

The current configuration of say a Class 375/377/379/397 Electrostar does not satisfy the need of the difficult mixed market, as it is geared to taking lots of commuters to and from work.

In the case of the Sheerness Line, which is electrified, a couple of Class 377 trains would be ideal for modification for the market. I suspect, that they may even be in Southeastern’s plans to run these trains on the line, when they receive a few more from GTR.

Designed properly, it would also be good for commuting to the nearer major towns.

Improving The Service To Sheerness

Although current figures probably show that two-car trains running with a frequency of 2 tph is sufficient and that if they were four-car trains, they certainly would be, I would think that if there were four tph serving Sheerness, that this would be a traffic magnet par excellence.

One of the problems is that I suspect many of the travellers from the Sheerness Line want to go to to Sittingbourne for work, leisure or family reasons.

As trains going direct to London or the Medway Towns from Sheerness can’t easily call at Sittingbourne, a train going from Sheerness to Rochester would have to reverse at Sittingbourne. This would not be ideal.

So perhaps the solution would be to keep the shuttle at 2 tph and add a second service from Sheerness that goes west on the Chatham Main Line.

The problem of going West is where do you turn the train.

The line from Sittingbourne to Gravesend carries about 8 tph and as none of the stations have an Eastward facing bay platform,, no-one is going to want a shuttle from Sheerness interrupting the long distance traffic.

In my view, there are two possibilities.

  • Dartford serves as a terminus for trains from London and could probably accommodate some from the other direction.
  • Ebbsfleet International could probably turn the required number of trains, in its current platforms 5 and 6.

Both have their advantages.

I would plump for Ebbsfleet International, as this would give 4 tph between the Medway Towns and Continental services.

I do wonder if direct services to London Victoria would continue if Sheerness had a connection to the Medway Towns.

Rochester will have the following connections to London.

  • 3 tph to London Victoria.
  • 2 tph to London Charing Cross and London Bridge, which will be 3 tph from 2018.
  • 2 tph to London St. Pancras.

I think that someone with all the data and knowledge could create a very passenger-friendly service to Sheerness from all over London.

Related Posts

A Design Crime – Ebbsfleet International Station

A Trip To Sheppey

A Twelve-Car Ready Railway

Along The North Kent Line

Between Abbey Wood And Belvedere Stations

Connecting North Kent And The Medway Towns To Ebbsfleet International Station

Extending Crossrail To Gravesend

Rainham (Kent) Station

Thameslink To Rainham

Through The Medway Towns

 

 

September 22, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , ,

8 Comments »

  1. […] I discuss this more in What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

    Pingback by Sittingbourne Station « The Anonymous Widower | September 22, 2016 | Reply

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  3. […] What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

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  4. […] What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

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  5. […] What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

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  6. […] What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

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  7. […] What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

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  8. […] What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey? […]

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