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July 23 2016.

Lib Dem release:

On Thursday night, Lewes District Council unanimously supported a motion demanding a full rail service be restored between Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford. The motion – which was fully supported by the Liberal Democrat Group - said:

“That this Council deplores the reduction in train services between Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford, and on the remaining routes from Lewes, and demands that a full service on each of the routes be reinstated immediately”.

Lib Dem Councillor Steve Saunders, Newhaven, quoted a letter which Newhaven Town Council has sent to the CEO of Govia Thameslink: “We are writing on behalf of the community of Newhaven in East Sussex and its Town Council and wish to express our anger and disbelief at the current state of affairs with regard to train services in our town. The new timetable has been introduced until further notice which cuts train services between Newhaven and Lewes and Brighton from 79 trains a day to just 15 with the remaining services replaced a by bus service.

“The buses operating as replacement service are not accessible for the disabled or parents with buggies and they are consequently left with sometimes more than an hour without any means of travel. This dispute is having a severe effect on the well-being of the people in the town. It has become prohibitively difficult to travel by train and so many will use their cars instead. Newhaven has already been identified by this council as having air pollution and the town is suffering from poor air quality.”

Lib Dem Councillor Vic Ient, (representing Ouse Valley villages between Lewes & Newhaven), spoke in support of the move for a full re-instatement of the rail service: “I fully agree with this motion. I have been commuting to London and travelling around locally for over 30 years and this is the worst situation I have witnessed on the railways. It is totally avoidable. I attended a transport summit organised by the MP for Hastings and Rye back in March this year and at that transport summit Charles Horton (CEO of Govia Thameslink) spoke and he never mentioned anything about taking action against the guards. A few weeks later there was a dispute on hand! It seems to me that this is been badly organised and we should demand the company restore services immediately”.

Vic Ient went to talk about the already heavily trafficked country road between Lewes and Newhaven where the rail replacement buses are travelling to and fro because of the cancellation of the trains.

After the meeting Vic commented: “The traffic situation on the C7 road already is causing concern for safety of pedestrians and cyclists. The extra traffic caused by these buses just adds to the problem. Especially when the local residents can’t even use them except at Southease. This dispute is totally avoidable and I hope that we can bring enough pressure on the government to end the misery for people in Seaford Newhaven and Lewes”

The motion was unanimously supported to bring back a normal train service on the line between Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford.

This motion was followed up by Vic Ient focusing councillors’ attention on the wider problem. He had initially proposed that the franchise for Govia Thameslink should be withdrawn. However earlier in the day the council had received a letter from Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London which seeks support for his proposal to the Department for Transport that Transport for London (TfL) should be allowed to take over the operation of the Southern Railway area.

Vic Ient won support from the Leader of the Council who agreed to write immediately to Chris Grayling Secretary of State for Transport supporting the Mayor of London's proposal that Transport for London be put in temporary charge of Southern.

After the meeting Vic Ient commented: “I sincerely hope that this initiative by the Mayor of London may bring misery and disruption to an end quickly. I’d be astounded if the government rejected this proposal. The disruption can’t be left to go on. The MPs are just about to break up for their summer recess let’s hope they accept this now and don’t leave us in Sussex in the lurch for the whole of the summer!”