Hastings MP tells Parliament ‘We need longer rail franchise’

Amber Rudd is pressing Parliament for changes to travel to Hastings
Amber Rudd is pressing Parliament for changes to travel to Hastings

THE fight for faster trains between Hastings and the capital moved to the House of Commons last week - with local MP Amber Rudd lobbying the Government for changes.

Ms Rudd held a debate in Parliament calling for a complete overhaul of the way the Government dishes out rail franchises.

And she told Commons colleagues that unless improvements were made to the current journey times, the continued regeneration of Hastings would be destined for the scrap heap.

Speaking in the chamber, Ms Rudd said: “I am convinced that we need to change the structure of our rail franchises if we are to secure the much needed investment in our Hastings to London train line.

“We all know that the regeneration of the town will be vastly accelerated if we can speed up the rail service and make it more efficient.

“I am working hard on government for a strategy to deliver that.”

She urged the secretary of state to consider a longer franchise for the current Southeastern route from London to Hastings in order to encourage the much needed investment in the line.

However, the minister confirmed the first franchise after 2014 - which is when the current deal is due to end - would be a short one to allow the rail traffic following the Thameslink improvements to be assessed.

There were suggestions though that the next contract would be longer, and the minister also agreed to meet with the St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme (SHRIMP) which has long-fought for a quick-fire service to the City.

Elsewhere commuters were given a boost by the announcement that Southeastern plans to make it easier for passengers to claim money back if trains are late.

The delay-repay compensation scheme is due to be introduced in July and season ticket holders will be entitled to half of the fare if their overall trip is delayed by 30 minutes.

This will be music to the ears of regular rail users who, last winter, were not entitled to a pay-out despite seeing their journey times ravaged by snow because the much maligned Southeastern had beaten its punctuality target for the year.