Slow train journey times from West Sussex stations to London ‘constraint to business growth’

Southern train SUS-150225-010356001

Southern train SUS-150225-010356001

  • Slow train journey times from West Sussex to London ‘constraint’ on business growth
  • County council responds to consultation and calls for quicker services to capital from ‘key destinations’
  • Follows heavy criticism of Southern by MPs
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Slow train journey times from West Sussex stations to London are a ‘constraint’ to future business growth in the area.

West Sussex County Council listed its main concerns with rail services in the county as capacity and reliability of trains on the Brighton Main Line, slow journey times, the frequency of fast services during peak times, connectivity, the quality of train stock, and confusion over ticket prices.

The authority was asked by the London Assembly to contribute towards an investigation into London’s rail services, and in its response it has called for quicker journey times between the capital and ‘key destinations for future growth’ in West Sussex such as Burgess Hill, Shoreham, Worthing, Angmering, Chichester, and Bognor Regis.

Wifi on trains as well as more services in the early morning and later evening are two other suggested changes.

The proposed response reads: “Slow journey times between main towns on the West Sussex coast and other centres of economic activity are a constraint to future growth. Businesses frequently tell us that poor connectivity is one of the reasons why they prefer to invest in locations with better connections.”

It went on to say that the county council was keen to work with other local authorities to monitor performance as it would ‘help greatly as rail operators would be held to account for poor quality of services in real time’.

Earlier this month several Sussex MPs criticised Southern’s ‘lamentable’ performance.

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert tabled a motion to discuss the train operating company’s recent performance at Westminster Hall, and said that as the ‘worst performing franchise in England’ the company ‘should hang its head in shame’.

According to Mr Herbert passenger satisfaction has fallen from 82 per cent in autumn 2010 to 72 per cent by spring this year, giving them the lowest satisfaction rate of any franchise.

On punctuality 6.2 per cent of Southern trains were cancelled or significantly late in the fourth quarter of 2014.

He argued that Network Rail should bear some of the blame for Southern’s ‘lamentable’ performance over the last few months, but felt that people were ‘fed up’ with excuses from the rail franchise.

Mr Herbert also raised problems with overcrowding, timely information, cleanliness, and the need for a better compensation system, with many of his points echoed by other Sussex MPs.

Claire Perry, the minister at the Department for Transport with responsibility for the railways, admitted that passengers had ‘lost their trust in the operator’.

Southern is due to officially merge with Thameslink and Great Northern later this month as part of the new Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise.

On its website, GTR admitted that ‘passengers have not been getting the service they expect from us and are understandably feeling increasingly frustrated’, but it was providing constant updates on its joint improvement plan with Network Rail and Southern.

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