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13 July 2016, 09:22 | Updated: 13 July 2016, 09:26
Hundreds of people turned out for protest at Seaford station on Tuesday night gainst the cancellation of most Seaford-Brighton train services from this week.
The peaceful “protestival” saw people chanting, blowing whistles and waving banners with drummers joining in. Protesters are demanding a few services are immediately reinstated and that a timeline for returning all services is announced publicly.
A petition on www.change.org against the severely reduced service was launched late last Friday and has already attracted nearly 1000 signatures. Visit www.change.org and search for ‘Seaford and Newhaven trains’ to sign it. Maria Caulfield MP is now organising a public meeting about the situation to take place 7pm Thursday 14 July, Seaford Baptist Church.
Protest organiser Fiona Lewis, mum, communications consultant and trainer, said:
“Cutting a half-hourly train service serving over 40,000 people overnight is irresponsible and unfair. Reading the comments of those who have signed the petition has been incredibly moving. It is clear that the loss of services will impact on the livelihoods of commuters as well as the wellbeing and opportunities of the old, the young and those with disabilities. The loss of train services will set back the local economy and the increase in road traffic could be severe.
“The Department for Transport must compel Southern to reinstate some of our train services immediately. We hope a minister will attend the public meeting on Thursday.”
Southern will be putting some buses in place to take travellers to Lewes but in rush hour traffic this will see an 18-minute train journey now taking upwards of 45 minutes. There are no guarantees that there will be space for all passengers on the buses nor that the bus services will arrive in time for onward connections to London. Many commuters are now saying they will have to allow at least an extra hour to get to London not taking into account any possible further delays.
The news follows months of misery across the Southern rail network due to an ongoing dispute between Southern’s management and the RMT union which the Department for Transport has failed to resolve. Relentless cancellations and delays at a level never seen before have even resulted in some people losing their jobs.
With the situation in Seaford and Newhaven at an all-time low desperate passengers are increasingly calling for the Government to step in to resolve the dispute. Inexplicably the Department for Transport seems to be defending Govia Thameslink Railway, the company that holds the franchise, saying the “network is extremely complex” and “punctuality on this part of the network has always proven challenging”.
Southern say their new timetable will give passengers more certainty and stop trains being cancelled at the last minute.