England

Hastings line: 'No' to free high speed alternative route

Artist's impression of the new platforms at London Bridge Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption The number of trains per hour at London Bridge will grow from 70 to 88

Rail passengers have been told they will not be allowed to use alternative high speed trains for free when their services are disrupted.

Passengers travelling from East Sussex and Kent to London face years of disruption while work is carried out at London Bridge.

Hastings Borough Council asked Southeastern to allow passengers to use the high speed service via Ashford.

Southeastern said high speed passengers "paid a premium" for faster journeys.

Southeastern trains to Charing Cross will not call at London Bridge for a year from 2015 while services to Canon Street will also cease to use the station between 2016 until late 2017.

In a letter to Southeastern's managing director, David Statham, Hastings Borough Council leader Jeremy Birch, wrote: "We have very real concerns about what happens during the three years that the Southeastern side of [London Bridge] station is being rebuilt."

Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption The new concourse at London Bridge station will be the biggest in the UK

Mr Birch said passengers travelling between Hastings and London Bridge via Tunbridge Wells will have to travel on to Waterloo East and then "retrace their journey" on the underground or by bus.

Mr Birch said: "We have been told at stakeholder meetings by both Southern and Southeastern that all reasonable alternative travel options will be allowed, yet travel via HS1 does not seem to be included."

Southeastern said it had been working with London Underground, buses and Docklands Light Railway to allow its passengers to use their services at no extra cost while the work is carried out.

A spokeswoman said: "This agreement does not include free travel on our high speed service as passengers on this route pay a premium for their faster journey and we need to balance protecting their interests with helping passengers affected by the London Bridge work."

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