In follow up to a comment on Facebook we are publishing our direct response to Network Rail’s Route Study (originally submitted in January 2015):
St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement is pleased to offer its thoughts towards the Sussex Route Study. It is noted that in NWR geographic Hastings & St Leonards falls under ‘Kent’, but the East Coastway and London Victoria routes are key ingredients to the rail travel options to the community and as such we have a very strong interest.
We have noted the following:
GATWICK AIRPORT EXPANSION
There is no strategy for handling any increase in passenger movement from South of Gatwick should the airport succeed in a massive market expansion, which would expectedly create a large increase in passenger movement and also develop a wider employment catchment area to include Hastings area. If this is an ‘unknown’ then perhaps the consultation should be stalled and reissued once the Gatwick Airport situation is clarified.
Through tourism, education, employment, long distance routing the necessity for faster journey times across Sussex, within Sussex, and from Sussex needs to be addressed, but there is no strategy for this.
SUSSEX > LONDON
With the notable exception of Brighton, there is no strategy for reducing overcrowding through increased capacity on over-subscribed services.
The reinstatement of the small stretch of (removed) infrastructure between Pevensey & Westham < > Polegate would reduce the journey time between Hastings < >London Victoria by a minimum of 20% (approx 25mins out of 2hrs) for a relatively small financial outlay, at the same time enabling other services to be introduced Eastbourne < > Brighton. This is not even discussed within the document. Indeed, the prospect of any infrastructure improvement London < > Hastings / Bexhill East of Eastbourne is specifically ignored within the document (table 3.3, page 41).
LEWES < > UCKFIELD (re-opening)
Whilst there is a general note, there does not appear to be any recognition that this would create much shorter journeys between other points in Sussex. Hastings to Uckfield by rail currently requires travel to EAST CROYDON then a second journey to Uckfield; a journey time of over 2.5hrs to cover a distance of under 30 miles.
It is 1hr by road. This line would also serve as a useable, if not preferable, alternative to the Brighton Main Line in the event of serious or long-term disruption.
A route study for 30 years of rail travel should be seen to take a serious look at this prospect.
In closing we recognise that The ‘Sussex’ route study must by default address issues raised through the length of the Brighton (‘Sussex’) Main Line and the numerous off-shoot routes that it covers.
However, we consider that too much of the study has been concentrated on moving people through East Surrey and South London, rather than providing a strategy for the long-term travel needs of the Sussex population, notably those who wish to travel within / across / between East and West Sussex.
Rail travel needs to be seen as a realistic and attractive alternative to road congestion. This document does not reflect this.