Electrifying two rail lines in East Sussex, including Uckfield to Hurst Green, is the best way of improving capacity, reducing journey times and boosting the county’s economy, a council chief said.
East Sussex County Council has designated the electrification and dual tracking of the Uckfield to Hurst Green and Hastings to Ashford lines as its key priorities for improving rail infrastructure and services.
The council’s Rail Strategy and Action Plan, ‘Shaping Rail In East Sussex’, outlines the authority’s vision for services in the county and will be used to influence future rail investment decisions taken by the rail industry and Government.
The strategy, drawn up after a consultation with key stakeholders and including a rail symposium in September, was approved by Cllr Rupert Simmons, county council lead member for economy, at his latest lead member meeting.
He said: “Improving railway infrastructure in East Sussex will increase capacity, reduce journey times and enable access to jobs, education and training, all of which will contribute to the delivery of our key priority of supporting economic growth in the county.
“Having a Rail Strategy and Action Plan will put us in a strong position to inform key rail industry documents and in seeking funding to progress these improvements.
“They will also strengthen our longer term vision of strategic improvements on the Brighton to Ashford line, and in connecting Brighton to London via Uckfield.”
In its plan, the council said the Uckfield line provides a direct rail service from the centre of the county to London Bridge via East Croydon, and is a popular commuter route; Eridge is the most northerly East Sussex station.
The route is not electrified between Uckfield and Hurst Green and runs one train per hour off peak with additional services in morning and evening peak.
“The rail network itself is relatively poor, with little obvious significant investment having taken place for many years,” the document said.
“Journey times on the East Sussex rail network are notoriously slow, and there is often overcrowding arising from insufficient rolling stock.”
Although the County Council has no statutory responsibility for rail and has limited ability to influence outcomes, it has significant interest in how it connects people to and from East Sussex and how rail can support economic growth in the county.
It is working with the rail industry and groups to address issues and identify opportunities for improvement.