A RAIL summit organised to ‘reverse the decline’ in local train services will be attended by the Secretary of State for Transport.
Patrick McLoughlin will be at the meeting, which takes place in Hastings on March 31 at Sussex Coast College and has been organised by local MP Amber Rudd.
It will bring together representatives from train operators Southeastern, the track operator Network Rail, the county council and other local authorities and local rail groups to discuss the future of local services.
Ms Rudd was delighted Mr McLoughlin was taking the issue seriously enough to attend. She said: “I am looking for the Secretary of State’s support to implement a vision for rail transport for the 21st 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.
“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 for work and play, to attract new employers and new development. There have been virtually no rail improvements for Hastings over the last 20 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.”
Ahead of the meeting, Ms Rudd is encouraging people to visit her website, www.amberrudd.co.uk, and sign her up to her rail campaign.
News of the Secretary of State’s visit was welcomed by both the St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement group (SHRIMP) and the East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA).
ESRA spokesman Ray Chapman said: “Relatively inexpensive schemes will have a massive impact on what the new franchise holders offer when the new ThamesLink/Southern/Great Northern operation commences in 2015.”