Saturday, 17 October 2009

Closing Brighton-Ashford train line is madness

Southern Railways has revealed it hopes to end direct train services between Brighton and Ashford.

The firm argues that since Eurostar trains no longer stop at Ashford, there's little need for the service, and rail users would be better served by increasing Brighton to Eastbourne train numbers instead.

But Green Group convenor Bill Randall has today condemned the plans as 'madness' - Ashford is a rapidly growing population centre, which will need more links with other towns and cities in future, not less, and, in the face of rising fuel prices, we should be improving public transport systems, not removing them altogether.

If Southern, the rail franchise holder for the central South East, gets its way, travellers from Brighton to Ashford will have to change trains to make the journey from December 2010.The second train, from Eastbourne to Ashford, is a two-car train that is often overcrowded.

Brighton, Lewes and Polegate will lose their through service to Ashford, which is an important link between Sussex and Kent.

The journey will take longer, and people will be discouraged from taking the train and will be more likely to drive to Ashford. This service should not be scrapped, it should be improved with longer trains and proposals developed to electrify the line from Hastings.

Southern should think again, and it should also have another look at reopening the Lewes to Uckfield line, which would ease congestion on the Brighton to London line as well as restoring rail services to rural Sussex.

Of course the real answer is re-nationalisation of the rail network: train services should be provided because communities benefit from them - not because they are profitable.

Public transport should be a state provided public service - subsidised by the taxpayer where necessary, and never driven by the profit motive. But I guess that's another argument for another day!

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