Even though it often doesn’t feel like it, there has been action on our rail connection to London. Since Sir Nicholas Soams and I set up a group that includes every MP served by Southern, government has unlocked £300m in additional funding to be spent this year between London and Brighton and along the coast. Believe me, some of the meetings have been tense, your anger has been well represented!
Why £300m? That’s the most that Network Rail told us they could spend in a year on infrastructure investment.
But, and here’s the challenge, investment in our region’s rail network is pretty much the lowest in the country per passenger, even though we have the most acute transport challenges. We need to get millions of people to work and to airports and lots of other crucial destinations every day, yet we spend more per passenger in almost every other region.
Each year government gives Network Rail one single lump of money. Network Rail then allocates it around the regions. This Friday is the day government decides on funding for the period that lies ahead and we’re determined to deliver a better settlement for passengers here in the southeast.
So, Sir Nicholas and I have written to government demanding that we get our fair share. This year an incredibly detailed report into the challenges of the London to Brighton line was completed. It concluded that the £300m in extra funding this year was exactly what was needed, but it must continue at that level for the next three years in order to transform our network into one that is reliable.
There are lots of challenges facing our rail network, but unless we invest in the tracks, signalling, bridges, and upgrade the technology that underpins the line, we will always be brought to our knees by sink holes, broken light bulbs, and lorry’s hitting bridges. I know you cannot, and should not, suffer that any longer.
So this is the latest front in the battle for a better rail service - it’s a fight I’ll not stop until we get one, even though sometimes it’s hard to see light at the end of the tunnel (pun intended!!). All the best, Peter