Arun Valley rail improvements

This week the West Sussex Rail Users Association announced that I have become their new President.  I am honoured to be taking up this position and very pleased to be working with the group.

The Association was established to be a unified voice to represent the interests of local rail users.  It has been campaigning for increased investment and significant improvements in rail services for West Sussex, and also works for integrated public transport in the County.

There has rightly been a lot of local attention on roads issues recently, and I continue to make the case for upgrading the A27 because I believe it will have important economic and environmental benefits for West Sussex.

There is a very large national budget for road infrastructure spending over the next few years, and we should be bidding for our county to have its share.

I do not accept the argument that we should instead be investing in public transport, because we can and must do both.  Most of my constituents travel to work by car, but many rely on the local rail service and I constantly raise issues on their behalf and press for improvements.

We have recently seen better signalling installed on the Arun Valley line at a cost of £21 million, and the £6 billion upgrade which is underway at London Bridge will make a huge difference to services by 2018.

However there are many ongoing issues about punctuality, cleanliness of trains and parking at stations like Pulborough that also need to be addressed.

I will be meeting Southern to discuss how it will be addressing these issues with its new franchise, and look forward to working with the West Sussex Rail Users Association to ensure that passengers have a strong voice.

I have also urged Network Rail to consider constructing the Arundel Chord, a short piece of track that would enable trains to turn east below Arundel, providing a direct link between Horsham and Worthing.

Following my request, the Chord has been included in a broader Route Study which will be complete by the end of this year, with a final document expected early next year.

We need the A27 to be upgraded, including an Arundel bypass, and we also need improvements to rail services.  I would also like to see more cycle routes in West Sussex.  These are not alternatives.

Christopher N Howarth