RAIL CAMPAIGN: Call for radical rail improvements after a miserable year

Train line at Folkington, Polegate
Train line at Folkington, Polegate
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It has been a miserable year for railway commuters in East Sussex, sparking calls for radical improvements to services on the east coastway line.

Southern Rail and Southeastern, the two train companies which serve East Sussex, are two of three providers with the lowest customer satisfaction records in the country.

The third worst-rated provider, Govia Thameslink, is joining up with Southern Rail this year in what one reader called ‘a gloomy prospect for East Sussex passengers’.

The survey, by Passenger Focus, collated the views of 27,000 travellers, and painted a bleak picture of railway services in the area.

That is why the Express is launching a campaign to lobby railway companies to up their game. This means less delays and cancellations, better timetabling for the area, and more carriages for commuter services.

In September, one commuter, Chelsea Peterson, called for more carriages on the Ashford International to Brighton service, which provides two carriages at peak times.

She raised safety concerns and revealed the ‘horrendous’ conditions on the service to Southern Rail, but nothing has been done to solve the problem.

Lewes MP Norman Baker said he had received a record number of complaints about Southern Rail in the last three months, and arranged a meeting with the company to urge it to improve on Friday February 13.

He met David Scorey, the deputy managing director of Southern Rail, for an hour to discuss the poor service he believes his constituents are receiving from the rail operator on a day to day basis.

Mr Baker said: “We, on the coastway east of the Southern service, are getting a raw deal with poor timetabling, poor trains and poor service, with improvements only happening on the coastway west of the line. My constituents deserve a proper service, a service which they are paying for, which runs on time and with correct information. Southern have taken their eye off the ball.”

A spokesman for Southern said the company is determined to return to a level of service its customers expect and deserve’.

He said: “We listened very carefully to what Mr Baker had to say at the meeting. We discussed a number of issues, some of which we have been talking about for some time and some that are new. We have taken some of these issues away with us to look into further.”

Among the list of complaints Mr Baker raised with Southern were: the lack of information on trains, lack of staff presence - particularly when there are issues on the services, poorly maintained trains including lack of heating, doors that do not close and punctuality of service.

With rail fares rising every year, it is only fair that the service improves, but this hasn’t been the case for many commuters in the area.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd backed our campaign, and said: “I think the journey from Eastbourne to London needs to be faster. I particularly think we need more carriages.” He said the new franchise between Southern and Thameslink, which comes into force later this year, is the perfect time to lobby for change.

“This is a good time for us to say it is not good enough,” he said. “Now they have got this massive new franchise they have simply got to improve running times.”