MP leads fight for vital rail improvements

Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd is calling for action to upgrade rail provision in the area.
Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd is calling for action to upgrade rail provision in the area.

“WE’VE had enough of make do and mend” - that’s the message from fed-up passengers to rail bosses.

Passengers, pressure groups and politicians are calling for urgent action to upgrade rail provision in the area, including the Hastings to London line, which includes Battle, Crowhurst, Robertsbridge and Etchingham stations.

MP Amber Rudd, who is spearheading the campaign, has announced she is to hold a rail summit in Hastings, which the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin will attend.

Ms Rudd said: “I am looking for his support to implement a vision for rail transport for the twenty-first century.

“We’ve had enough of “make do and mend” and need a fresh look and commitment for a comprehensive upgrade of the rail provision in our area.”

Ms Rudd, who is the MP for Hastings and Rye, says improved rail services are vital to secure the economic future of 1066 Country.

She said: “Our rail lines are inferior to our neighbours, east and west. This is holding back our economic growth. So I am looking for a transformative change to our rail travel to end years of neglect and inadequate levels of investment.

“We must have more capacity and ability to move to work and play, to attract new employers and new development.

“Transport improvements for Hastings has had virtually no rail improvements over the last twenty years and now the country is benefiting from a massive investment programme in rail.

“I would very much like to see our local railways included in this programme as they have been passed over for too long.”

The summit is being supported by strategy group East Sussex Rail Alliance and the St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement (SHRIMP).

A spokesperson for SHRIMP said: “At last we are reaching for an ambitious, but deliverable, sea change for Hastings and St Leonards transport services.

“We fully support this approach to a route and branch examination of significant improvements to take Hastings into a new era of rail travel.”

The summit will bring together representatives from train operators Southeastern and Southern, track operator Network Rail, East Sussex County Council and other essential local authorities and local rail groups.

The summit is set for March 31, with the venue to be confirmed shortly.

Ms Rudd will set out her vision for rail travel for Hastings 2020 and seek to secure commitment and investment from stakeholders to ensure delivery.

Ms Rudd said: “Central to the strategy is to deliver a quicker and much more reliable journey between Hastings and London, and to link Hastings to projected economic growth areas in Kent and the Thames Gateway, and westwards to Gatwick Airport, Eastbourne and Brighton.

“My goal is to get the London journey time down to 66 minutes by extending HS1 ‘Javelin’ services to Hastings via an electrified and upgraded Marshlink Line.

“I want to see a major upgrade in the Hastings-Tonbridge route. And we must have a reconstruction of the Eastern Coastal route to connect Brighton to Hastings.

“I won’t settle for anything less. It’s time to deliver real change.”