I brought Nick Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Govia Thameslink to visit our local stations. He’s the boss of our whole rail franchise…including Southern!
As you know, I never stop banging on about trains…I’ve even become a train nerd! That’s because you need a train nerd for an MP. A week never goes by without me communicating directly with the bosses of our rail network and I always try to be a constructive partner that does whatever it takes to solve the problems we have on the network.
A fortnight ago I met with the boss of GTR who came to my office in parliament for a regular catch up. I asked him to come and see for himself the challenges faced by small stations like Aldrington, so a week later, yesterday, Nick took me up on the offer and came down to see it for himself.
I’m really grateful to him for doing this, it’s the second time I’ve managed to bring the boss of GTR to our constituency. Many of you will remember the public meeting we had with Nick’s predecessor.
I introduced him to local passengers, rail campaigners, and councillor Tom Bewick, all of whom have been working so hard for improvements to Aldrington Station.
And for once I have some good news! After talking to us all and hearing exactly what the local community wants to achieve with the station, he agreed to release £30,000 for us to invest in improvements to Aldrington.
The community has already formed an Aldrington Station community group and that group will now formalise and take control of how the money is invested. We discussed better departure signage, shelter, and increased ticket machines. We even looked at the possibility of an additional, shorter, entrance to the London-bound platform.
Now we have this money we can think of attracting more local investment in match-funding, so you’ll be seeing a lot of energy and positive change in the coming months.
The sole ticket machine was out of order as we passed it, which caused much amusement and illustrated the challenges I was telling him about. I also told him about similar challenges at Portslade station and about the issues there too.
You’ll be pleased to know that an engineer has been sent out this morning to fix it, and I will personally tell him if goes out of action again.
I then jumped on a train with Nick and took him to Hove station. I desperately wanted to show him the footbridge in person. That bridge needs to be upgraded, it is a disgrace. It’s the only link across the railway for a long distance and it is totally inaccessible to people with mobility challenges. The elderly, parents with pushchairs, and people with disabilities are all punished by that wretched bridge.
Because ownership of the footbridge is complex, upgrading it has been put off many times. Well yesterday I took the boss of our whole network and dragged him from one side to the other, speaking to passengers as we went.
You’ll see that I am laughing in the photo, that’s because as we walked along every person kept saying things like ‘Peter when will we get a new bridge’. Because it happened so many times Nick thought I had staged it! He accepted how bad things were and together we’re going to get things rolling again.
So, as ever things won’t change overnight. But we’ve made progress. I’ve got £30,000 for Aldrington for starters and we have a commitment to investigate improved signage, fencing, and reliability of ticket machines. And in Hove I have the promise to work with me on another big push to solve the problem of the dreaded footbridge. I promise you I’m really going to give this all I’ve got as I know everyone who lives around there is counting on me!