High hopes for rail summit

Eastbourne station, railway station from Cavendish Place bridge showing Southern Railway train in sidings. April 11th 2013 E15145P
Eastbourne station, railway station from Cavendish Place bridge showing Southern Railway train in sidings. April 11th 2013 E15145P

A passenger pressure group is hoping a rail development summit organised by East Sussex County Council will signal an improved service.

Lobbyists at East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) have long-campaigned for more investment in the train transport infrastructure and a better quality local rail system across the county. And, ahead of the county council’s first high level powwow on the issue, which is being held later this month, the ESRA chairman is hoping to finally see some movement on the issue.

Ray Chapman said, “It is time that the south coast rail travellers were promised and given a vastly better rail system. For decades the railway has a record of underinvestment and now, with Government leading the way towards vastly greener travel, we are at a loss to understand why the coastal travellers are being left so far behind when it comes to upgrading the lines, the facilities and the rolling stock.”

He was full of praise for the county council after the authority revealed it would begin working towards a Rail Development Action Plan and said the public should actively support proposals to push for an upgrade of the coastal line across the entire south, which would, ESRA says, see drastically improved links from as far west as Exeter, through Southampton, Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings to Ashford International in the east.

“This is a bold and very much welcomed step by the county council and should encourage Network Rail, the train operators and new businesses to look far more seriously at developing facilities, industries and commerce on the most favoured British coast. “This scheme is very much a win for all parties, with the opportunity of attracting more travellers, with improved train services, at more convenient travel times with far more seats, for key destinations of Eastbourne, Hastings and Brighton.

“What we want to reinforce with the county council is that, in East Sussex, we need their lead for module one - the double tracking, resignalling and full electrification of the MarshLink sections from Ashford to Hastings - and then the reinstatement of the Willingdon Chord, north of Eastbourne – to improve fundamentally services to that coastal resort and also to increase connectivity from there across the southern counties, as well as the commute to and from London.

“If it means that more are encouraged away from their cars and road transport because rail offers a much better deal, then we must press much harder for our share infrastructure investment. The county council and the rail industry must be encouraged to respond and with great vigour.”