Is Lewes station café under threat?

Runaway Cafe, Lewes Station ENGSUS00120130116151243
Runaway Cafe, Lewes Station ENGSUS00120130116151243

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has denied claims it plans to open a café in Lewes station after axing the food trolley service on board East Sussex trains.

Following the recent move which has seen Southern join the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, the company took the decision to terminate the on-board service as it was no longer the most popular option with customers.

However, it has since been said that GTR plan to join forces with Rail Gourmet - the company behind the train refreshment service - and open a café in Lewes station, in a bid to save jobs and still capitalise on the commuter market.

While that may be good news for Rail Gourmet workers, the possibility has not been welcome by Lewes residents, who fear the opening of a new shop could put the current and popular station shop, The Runaway Café, under threat.

A Lewes resident who lives in Priory Street said: “I have heard from trolley staff that the next step by the franchise is to introduce their own cafés - under the Govia brand - in stations including Lewes.

“Obviously this will mean a serious threat to the Runaway - which has been a target of the rail system for some time. Southern wanted The Runaway to be replaced by the Flying Coffee Bean franchise in 2013 but public pressure meant it was saved and granted a three-year lease which expires in January 2016.

“The Runaway won a local business award this year and is proudly flying a banner above its door to that effect. It would be a shame to see it go as its customers made it very clear the café is an important part of Lewes life.”

However, a spokesperson for GTR said: “There are no plans to open cafés under the Govia brand at any of our stations during this franchise.”

Southern Rail explained the company’s decision to end the service. A spokesperson said: “The popularity of station coffee shops and food outlets has steadily increased, with the majority of passengers opting to purchase food and drinks before they board.

“The number of customers who want to use the on-board trolley service tells us this is no longer our customers’ preferred service and so our current on-board trolley service will end on July 26 when Southern Railway joins the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise. We are working with Rail Gourmet to explore the possibility of helping staff find employment with us.”

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