Representatives from rail groups from across 1066 Country met with senior executives from train operator GoVia Thameslink Railway (GTR) at the Cooden Beach Hotel on Wednesday (November 9).
GTR, which owns Southern, is planning a major restructuring of its services in May 2018, and is currently running a public consultation.
The rail groups underlined the importance to local travellers of connections to Eurostar and High Speed services at Ashford, and a wish to see faster journey times on the traditional route to Victoria via Haywards Heath.
Chairman of the Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG), Hugh Sharp, said: “It was a very constructive meeting, and we are grateful to GTR for this opportunity to put forward our views.
“Both the Ashford and Victoria services are vital to the local economy of our region. At the same time, we recognise that specific services do suffer from overcrowding, and we have put forward a number of ideas as to how this might be managed.
“We also want to see timetables that are robust, and outlined our concern about the frequent and unplanned short-termination of trains at Eastbourne in the event of late-running.”
He continued: “This consultation offers a major opportunity to improve local rail services, but its scope covers a large area of South East England.
“It is therefore crucial that the needs of East Sussex rail users are heard. In particular, we emphasised the importance of the through service between Ashford and Brighton.”
Stuart Harland of the Marshlink Action Group (MLAG) said: “The Marshlink has become a strategic link in recent years and has seen a large growth in usage. It is important to recognise this, while at the same time also focussing on local users.
“One of the things we would like to see is a later last train. Currently the last connecting train leaves London at 21.37 which is no use for those wanting a night out in the capital.”
Trevor Davies of Ore Transport Group (OTG) said: “One of the proposals within the consultation document suggested that Ore should no longer be served by Southern services to and from Victoria. This idea appears to go against the experience of recent years, which has seen substantial increases in passengers travelling between Ore station and coastway destinations such as Bexhill and Eastbourne.
“We were therefore encouraged to hear that this particular proposal is likely to be dropped.”
Martin Woodfine of St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement (SHRIMP) said: “It is important that this is a transparent exercise and that the needs of local rail users come first.
“GTR told us that they had an open mind and wanted to design a train service that meets the needs of local people. We shall take them at their word and hold them to this.
“Our primary concern is that there is no planned capacity increase between Eastbourne and Ashford through any of GTR’s suggested options. It is essential that the through Ashford - Brighton service is maintained and that the capacity issues are properly addressed.
“The consultation is again focussed on appeasing the Gatwick-Victoria corridor. Users of our Victoria service should not be disadvantaged through even slower journey times coupled with continued overcrowding, whilst Brighton receives yet-more services, that are in many instances lightly-used.
“The results of the consultation are likely to be published next spring, with further comments on the draft timetable invited.”
The consultation runs until December 8, and responses from the travelling public are invited.
For further information visit http://www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/timetable-consultation
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