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Monday, July 15, 2024

Southern meets community leaders to discuss rail’s economic development role

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Representatives of Southern met community leaders from along the East Sussex coast at a forum in Cooden Beach, near Bexhill, earlier this month. They were joined by Rail Minister and MP for Bexhill and Battle Huw Merriman MP.

Attendees discussed how they can work together to take full advantage of the rail service improvements introduced in May to support the area’s economy.

Southern worked closely with rail user groups and other community representatives this year to deliver an improved summer timetable along the coast east from Brighton, all the way to Ashford. This has created more journey options, better-spaced schedules and better-timed connections to help encourage more commuter and leisure travel. Cooden Beach itself was among stations that gained new Sunday services.

At the forum, hosted at The Relais hotel, the train company, local authorities, businesses and community groups shared ideas about how they can collaborate to promote the region.

Huw Merriman said: “Rail plays a crucial role in supporting local economies, and the productive and collaborative discussions for maximising the new and improved rail timetable along the coast were highly encouraging.

“I am committed to ensuring these efforts deliver a more reliable railway for passengers and the wider community.”

Patrick Verwer, chief executive officer of Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said: “We very much value the views and advice of our community representatives, and the work they do in partnership with us. These are challenging times financially for the railway, with far fewer people commuting five days a week as a result of the pandemic. Yet there is still much we can do to make the most of the new timetable and promote local areas, by working with the people who live, work and travel here.”

Yolanda Laybourne, Chair of Hastings & Rother Rail Users Alliance, said: “It’s important that the voices of service users are heard. Whilst we may always wish for more, I’m pleased that we’ve been able to obtain timetable improvements already through working in partnership with Southern with a mutual understanding of what can be realistically achieved.”

Image credit: GTR

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