Nick Herbert expresses concern over new Arun Valley rail timetable
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has expressed concern over the introduction of a new timetable by Southern which has increased travel times for passengers in the Arun Valley.
The new timetable came into force on Sunday and will stay in place until December 2008.
It extends the journey times for passengers travelling from stations in Ford, Arundel, Amberley, Pulborough, Billingshurst and Christ's Hospital by up to eight minutes. It affects customers travelling in both directions, except for a few peak-time services.
The new arrangements will mean the division of trains at Horsham instead of Barnham. This will enable Southern to provide for more journeys but cause delays due to the limited number of signals available south of Horsham.
Southern has admitted that some passengers will drive closer to London to pick up trains rather than use stations in the Arun Valley.
Local rail customer Graham Jeffs of West Chiltington said: "As usual, the residents adjacent to this line have received yet another kick in the teeth.
"There is no way that I shall use the service from Pulborough unless I have absolutely no alternative. It will be easier to drive northwards to another station or not use the train at all. The message is quite clear: Don't use the rail service from Pulborough."
Trevor Tupper of the Arun Valley Rail Users Association said: "We have had discussions on several occasions with Southern about the changes. We've tried to do our best for rail users in the Arun Valley.
"We have had to take the view, however, that the new timetable benefits the majority of users. It is unfortunate that it has disbenefits for users travelling from intermediate stations in the Arun Valley. But we will be looking at what can be done when further changes are made next December."
Nick Herbert has written to Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Southern, to ask for a meeting and an explanation for the changes.
The MP commented: "I appreciate that residents in Bognor, Littlehampton and Chichester want to see faster journeys and more regular trains to London, but my constituents in the Arun Valley have lost out.
"Perhaps the new timetable cannot be changed now. But I want to urge Southern to take account of the needs of their customers in the Arun Valley.
"Local people won't begrudge the idea of faster trains to the coastal towns - they just won't see why this should be done at the expense of the rural areas."
"It seems we have to fight for every single service - our local hospitals, post offices and now rail services. I feel that rural areas are being put at the bottom of the pile. But my constituents have paid their taxes like everyone else, and they are entitled to high quality local services."