Greater Brighton leaders are pledging to step up the call to bring much-needed investment to improve rail links between the south coast and the capital.

The Greater Brighton Economic Board (GBEB), which is made up of politicians, business leaders and representatives from academia, agreed yesterday (Tuesday, July 18) to push for improvements through the new regional transport body.

The GBEB has called for this regional body to create a new working group called Rail South, which will make upgrading the ‘not-fit-for-purpose’ Brighton Main Line a key priority.

The aim is to give commuters and businesses a greater voice at a time when many in recent months have felt first hand the impact of a reduced Southern rail service.

Greater Brighton leaders believe upgraded rail links will be a major boost to the local economy and the day-to-day lives of the region’s 700,000 residents.

Councillor Andy Smith, leader of Lewes District Council and chairman of the GBEB, said:

“An efficient and reliable rail service is critical to maintaining the Greater Brighton region’s competitiveness, driving its economic growth and boosting employment.

“Tens of thousands of people rely on this network every day, whether they are commuters, tourists or business owners. But recently it has been proved to be not fit for purpose.

“The aim of Rail South is to give customers, commuters and businesses a voice; a voice which will be heard directly by those people making decisions on how our current service is run.

“As a board, we have agreed that we need to make investment in the Brighton Main Line a priority. We will also use our position to push for other rail improvements, to ensure that connections on the east and west coastline out of Brighton are improved, as well as creating a solution to the lack of link between Lewes and Uckfield.”

Train services on the Brighton Main Line are among the busiest in the country. But levels of on-time performance are among the lowest nationally.

This situation has been exacerbated in the past 18 months due to industrial action on Southern services.

GBEB members agreed that investment is urgently needed on the Brighton Main Line to increase capacity and reliability in the long-term. This will not only support planned growth but transform the region’s economy.

If created, Rail South will sit under and report directly to the new Transport for South East regional group, a sub-national body which will make decisions on funding key infrastructure in the future.

Cllr Smith said: “I’m a firm believer that development is more than just building one thing; it also needs to look at the links between centres for employment and centres for living on both the macro and micro scale.

“This is why transport is important and the GBEB has a real opportunity to use its influence to have a say in guiding the strategy on this.”

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