Faster rail link to London tops campaign wish list

A BAND of campaigners wants the Government to force rail providers to cut the journey time between Eastbourne and London to 70 minutes.

The trip currently takes around an hour and a half, with two trains an hour heading to London Victoria from Eastbourne Station.

That journey time could be cut by around 20 minutes to half an hour if a group of lobbyists led by the town’s MP gets its way.

With the current Southern franchise up for renewal in 2015 and plans already afoot to merge the rail operator with Thameslink, locals have decided to step up their efforts to secure a faster connection with the capital.

Under guidelines, train companies are given a brief by the Department for Transport which they have to meet. This includes journey times, how often trains are run and what destinations need to be included in the timetable.

Mr Lloyd and his co-campaigners believe this is a golden opportunity to pressure the powers that be into forcing through improvements to the line and, earlier this week, a delegation travelled to London to lay out their expectations.

The MP was joined by representatives from Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, Eastbourne Hospitality Association, Eastbourne Borough Council, East Sussex County Council and East Sussex Rail Alliance.

They met with senior management at Southern and a second firm, First Group, which is expected to bid for the franchise when it comes up, to discuss what can be done to shorten the journey time. And they left hopeful of seeing some real changes which the say are vital for the future growth of Eastbourne.

Nicky Fisher, director at Eastbourne and District Chamber of Commerce, said, “It was an extremely productive meeting. This is the best chance Eastbourne has had for a generation to improve the service to the capital.”

Martin Searle, who was there on behalf of the local Federation of Small Businesses, agreed. He said, “We have over 1,000 members in and around Eastbourne, who will benefit massively if this investment is achieved. It will make Eastbourne an even more attractive place to visit and live, and enable businesses to grow across the whole area.”

And Carl Stanger, of the Eastbourne Hospitality Association, said, “There are 11 million e living in London, and by making Eastbourne that bit closer, our market for tourists will increase considerably.”

r Look out in next week’s Herald for details of our “LET’S FAST TRACK EASTBOURNE” campaign, and how you can get involved.