Concern at effect greater rail powers for Mayor of London will have on East Sussex services

Robertsbridge Railway Station is one of several in East Sussex served by the Southeastern franchise

Robertsbridge Railway Station is one of several in East Sussex served by the Southeastern franchise

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Concerns have been raised over the impact on some East Sussex train journeys if the Mayor of London is given direct power over more rail services.

Transport for London and the Government’s Department for Transport are consulting on a ‘new approach to train services in London and the South East’, which could lead to transferring control of the capital’s suburban rail services to TfL.

Huw Merriman, Bexhill and Battle MP, has argued that any changes should not affect East Sussex rail services

Huw Merriman, Bexhill and Battle MP, has argued that any changes should not affect East Sussex rail services

The Southeastern franchise, which operates services between London and East Sussex including stations in Battle and Hastings, is up for renewal in 2018 and could be one of the first set of services to be governed by the new partnership arrangements if proposals are agreed.

Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, said: “Whilst I accept the right of the Mayor of London to expand his coverage of rail to the outer London regions, I am determined that this will not be at the expense of the rail services which we receive in East Sussex.

“I have made representations to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, as well as in a Parliamentary debate before the rail minister, Claire Perry, that our local rail services need extra capacity and I have also expressed my concern that the desire of the London mayor for better services must not impact our local rail delivery.”

This comes as MPs discussed the reliability of Southeastern train services at a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament last week, where Mr Merriman said ‘it would be a huge concern if plans to give the Mayor of London wider powers for outer London were to affect the capacity further south’.

He also raised the need for a high-speed rail link from Bexhill and Hastings to St Pancras via Ashford.

Lucy Grubb, who commutes from Robertsbridge to London daily, said that while the current service offered by Southeastern had been ‘terrible’ in January, she added: “It’s easy to imagine that a change in the franchise or to the wider network would bring an improvement to the currently dreadful and colossally expensive service, but the consultation is concerning.

“It’s not clear how much of the south east rail network falls into the scope of the consultation or what the knock-on effects of the consultation might be to the wider network in the South East.”

Since Sevenoaks was mentioned she questioned if TfL would run a franchise as far as that, and if so who would run rail services beyond that and what effect any changes would have on ticket prices.

She added: “And regardless of whether TfL runs the entire network or just the metropolitan area, what guarantees will be put in place to ensure the current service on the wider network isn’t reduced to accommodate demand in the metropolitan area? And how will this guarantee be protected in the long term?”

The consultation document reads: “Our proposals include the transfer of responsibility from the DfT to TfL for inner suburban rail services that operate mostly or wholly within Greater London, as current franchises fall due for renewal. The DfT will continue to be responsible for outer suburban services.”

The consultation closes on March 18.

For more information visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/rail-passenger-services-in-london-and-the-south-east-a-new-approach

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