Lords and students back Unizone extension call

Sarah Owen with members of the House of Lords, students and supporters
Sarah Owen with members of the House of Lords, students and supporters

Hundreds of students have signed petitions calling for a discounted rail fare scheme to be extended to Hastings and St Leonards.

Campaigners want students attending the University of Brighton’s Hastings campus to be able to enjoy the benefits of train company Southern’s Unizone ticket.

With a valid NUS extra card, the Unizone season ticket offers students unlimited train travel in their area.

Last March the ticket was extended out to cover Eastbourne and Worthing but University of Brighton students living in Hastings are not currently eligible for the scheme.

A campaign was launch recently by Sarah Owen, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye.

It now has attracted the support of three Labour Lords, namely Lord Bassam, Lord Hunt and Lord Jones.

Last week on the steps of the Hastings campus they held aloft a giant Unizone ticket and signs calling for the zone to be extended.

Ms Owen said: “I’m proud to stand with students to get a fairer deal for people studying in Hastings, and thank Lords Bassam, Hunt and Jones for their support in calling for the Unizone to be extended to benefit students in Hastings.

“It seems odd that students in Eastbourne studying in Brighton will get help but students living here get none. With an increasing number of students living in Hastings I’d like to see Southern help us out in Hastings and ease the financial burden.”

Lord Steve Bassam of Brighton said: “I’m backing hard-pressed Hastings students in their struggle to stop the financial discrimination against students here. It’s time for Southern to extend the Unizone to Hastings.”

Lady Maggie Jones, Labour’s education spokeswoman in the Lords, said: “It’s great to stand alongside students and Sarah Owen in support of this campaign to get the Unizone extended to Hastings.”

Sophie Cohen, the University of Brighton’s Students’ Union campus and communications officer, said: “Extending the Unizone will impact on so many students at the University of Brighton so we will continue to campaign for affordable student transport – we urge those holding the reins not to sweep this under the carpet.”

A petition set up by the Students’ Union at the University of Brighton has attracted more than 500 signatures so far. It can be found at www.change.org/p/southern-rail-extend-the-unizone-to-hastings.

A Facebook page set up by Ms Owen has more than 300 supporters and is at www.facebook.com/pages/Extend-Unizone-to-Hastings/1582325378653992?ref=bookmarks.

Chris Hudson, Southern spokesman, said the change is currently ‘under active consideration’.