Fasttrack: Why Eastbourne to London in 70 minutes can be a reality

WITH the current Southern rail franchise up for renewal in 2015 and set to join the much larger Thameslink franchise, efforts for a faster train from Eastbourne to London have moved up a gear.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd is spearheading the campaign. A few weeks ago, heinvited representatives from key local business groups to Parliament, including Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, Eastbourne Hospitality Association, our Town Team, Eastbourne Can, the Borough and County Council, and the user group East Sussex Rail Alliance.

There they met with senior managers from both Southern and the First Group to discuss their vision for the franchise and how Eastbourne can benefit from quicker journey times to the Capital.

Stephen Lloyd and the Eastbourne Herald are joining forces to lobby the Department for Transport to ensure that a provision for a faster train to our town is included in the franchise.

Here, Stephen Lloyd outlines his vision:

Today, in Partnership with the Herald, I am launching ‘FASTRACK: Eastbourne to London in 70 minutes’. This is a campaign aimed at harnessing local pressure to help convince the Department for Transport that Eastbourne requires a faster train service to London. Such a move would have serious positive repercussions for Eastbourne and our local economy.

First and foremost, it will improve quality of life for local residents who commute to the capital every day and stop many of them moving away from the town when the journey becomes unbearable. As well as retaining many middle and high earners we will also attract many more keen to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and surrounding areas, which often means astronomical house prices, underperforming schools and low quality of life. Eastbourne offers quite the opposite.

This will mean a big boost to spending power in the local economy which in turn will have a huge impact on jobs and businesses across the town.

At present we also don’t fare as well as we could in attracting day trippers from the capital, keen to get to the coast during the summer months. Brighton, which is far inferior to Eastbourne in many ways, is packed. A quicker journey time will address this and put us firmly on the map for day trip destinations for the capital’s 11 million inhabitants.

Being that bit closer to the capital will lead to greater investment by national and international companies, keen to be close to London, but also keen to streamline costs. On top of the £70 million Arndale redevelopment, the £14 million Crumbles redevelopment, and the development of Devonshire Park as a Conference Centre things are really looking up for the town. A better train service will also make us that bit closer to other towns across the region and may increase the chances that big name shops and Department Stores like John Lewis could be on their way, with the prospect of us developing as a major retail hub.

I have grand plans for Eastbourne and our transport links across the South-East, and particularly to the capital, are crucial to this. Despite the perilous situation the national and international economy finds itself, things are looking good for Eastbourne because with all the major local stakeholders working together, such as the Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Eastbourne Hospitality Association, the Federation of Small Businesses, Eastbourne Can, the County Council, the new Town Team and East Sussex Rail Alliance, we continue to buck the trend.

The way in which we have all come together to fight this cause is another example of what can be achieved when we all pull together in the same direction.

Any reduction in the travel time between Eastbourne and London will be fantastic for our town; a significant step towards the magic 70 minutes to the capital will mean big things, and I’m determined to make it become a reality.

WHAT do you think? How much of a boost would the 70 minute travel time be to you and your business? How much priority should be given to the bid? Have your say by leaving your comments at the end of this story?