Rail campaigners across East Sussex have welcomed the dramatic intervention by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to suspend controversial timetable changes that were due to start next month. The East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA) claims that the plans would have led to poorer timekeeping, slower trains and more overcrowding for both local rail users and commuters travelling to and from London.
The ORR’s unprecedented decision comes just three weeks before train operator, Southern was due to launch a flagship service of four fast trains an hour between London and Brighton. ESRA was concerned that to facilitate this, services between East Sussex Coastway stations and the capital would have had to wait on the slow line at Haywards Heath for nearly ten minutes to enable the new fast services to overtake.
Following intense lobbying by the local action groups, which joined together to form ESRA, and a formal objection from rival train operator First Capital Connect — which itself runs four trains an hour between Brighton and London — the ORR has decided that the new services should not go ahead.
Speaking on behalf of ESRA, Belinda Fordham who is the Chair of the East Coastway Commuters’ Group said:
“We are delighted that the
Rail Regulator has restored some sanity to the planning framework for rail
services to the East and West Sussex. Brighton has faster, cheaper services
to/from London with significant spare capacity in comparison to the East and
West Coastway services which are sharing over-crowded trains, on which
passengers are paying higher fares and having to stand for most of the
“In ESRA’s view, it is quite clear that competition drives better services and as such other train operators should be allowed to compete on the East and West Coastway routes.”
She added: “The ORR’s decision should not drown in the back office of Southern HQ, but should be taken as an opportunity to provide a better service to the some 300,000 potential customers on the East Coastway. This spare pathway could now facilitate the running of separate half-hourly services between the East and West Sussex Coastway stations and London, avoiding the delays of attaching and dividing trains at Haywards Heath. This would not only improve punctuality, but deliver an improved journey time and alleviate over-crowding.”
For further information please contact Belinda Fordham via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Southern’s news release is also available.