MP Norman Baker outlines vision for better local rail service

Dawn by Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis
Dawn by Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis
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LEWES MP Norman Baker has written to the five bidders for the local rail franchise, currently up for grabs, to outline improvements he believes need to be made to improve services.

He is also seeking a commitment from them that they will give local passengers a better service.

In his letters to the Chief Executives of the Go-Ahead Group, the First Group, the Stagecoach Group, the MTR Corporation and the Abellio Group, Mr Baker has highlighted a number of specific areas that he believes the successful franchise bidder needs to change in order to improve local services. They are:

•Reducing journey times from Polegate to London

•Reducing markedly the practise of splitting trains at Haywards Heath

•Reducing general overcrowding

•Tackling the capacity problem at East Croydon

•Working with Network Rail to reinstate the Lewes/Uckfield line

Mr Baker has also asked the franchise bidders to commit to rectifying the bias which is currently given to the North/South mainline between Brighton and London at the expense of services to Eastbourne and Worthing.

He cites the necessity to separate East coastway services at Haywards Heath as an example of over prioritisation of services between the capital and Brighton. The separation at Haywards Heath is, according to the MP, time-consuming and leads to overcrowding on the often four carriage train that proceeds to Lewes and beyond.

Mr Baker believes that as the new larger franchise will remove competition between First Capital Connect and Southern, it will allow the successful bidder to take a more sensible approach to timetabling which could free up space on the mainline for both East and West coastway services to the capital.

He said: “I appreciate that the bidders cannot, at this stage, release specific details of their bids, but the key issues I have highlighted will improve the travel experience for local rail passengers. By making that clear to the franchise bidders, I expect them to take my comments onboard and ultimately, if they are the successful bidder, to provide a service for my constituents which improves travel conditions, increases capacity, provides faster services to the capital and ultimately provides a better service for local passengers.”