An Eastbourne business leader has said the train strikes are having a “devastating” effect on the town’s businesses.
Christina Ewbank, Chief Executive of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, met with Rail Minister Paul Maynard and Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell this week to discuss the ongoing dispute between Southern Rail and the unions RMT and ASLEF.
She said, “Many businesses have contacted us with regards to the ongoing strike action and the significant impact it is having on their business, and that of the region.
“Our view is that all parties - the unions, Southern Rail and HM Government - need to work together to bring this dispute to an end. We do not seek to take sides, or blame any one party but we cannot sit by and let our economy suffer whilst the dispute and delays continue.
“Whilst we have been lobbying since the disruptions began, on December 22, we sent letters to all of our local MPs, ASLEF, the RMT, Govia Thameslink/Southern Rail, Chris Grayling Secretary of State at the Department of Transport and Paul Maynard, the Rail Minister.
“This week I met with the minister for Rail [Paul Maynard MP] along with other representatives of ACES [The Alliance of Chambers in East Sussex] and Caroline Ansell MP.
“I explained that the current dispute is having a devastating effect on local business and that many of our members are now in serious trouble.
“It was explained that we do not take sides and were not able to blame either the unions or GTR but had come to appeal to Mr Maynard, our representative in Government, to ask him to take urgent action to intercede on our behalf, before it is too late.
“I also asked for help to promote the fact that East Sussex is ‘open for business’ and we asked for infrastructure investments to be supported by the Government.
“We explained that the rail situation is exacerbated by our very weak road infrastructure which cannot cope with the increased traffic and by slow rural broadband and mobile coverage making it difficult for commuters to work from home.
“We are continuing to lobby all parties to resolve this ongoing situation and will keep you advised of developments during the campaign.
“In the meantime, please do complete our survey. Doing so will add further weight to the anecdotal evidence that we have already collected.”
The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SouthernRail
Tim Cobb, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce President, added, “The continued strike action and delays have had a devastating impact on our local economy, and that of East Sussex, for well over a year.
“Whilst we remain non-political, we also believe that the ongoing deadlock between the unions, Southern Rail [Govia Thameslink] and the Department for Transport is only serving to prolong the chaos.
“We believe that the Government has a responsibility to ensure our trains are running, and should now intervene, with no pre-conditions to ensure a resolution to this strike.
“These strikes have only served to demonstrate that whilst East Sussex remains one of the 15 areas of growth, its economic potential is held back by a failure to invest in our infrastructure.
“With the poor condition of the A27, the A259, rail and indeed the capacity of Gatwick Airport, now is the time for Government to show that Sussex is open for business and demonstrate the same confidence in our area that businesses have.”