Local rail service

On Wednesday this week there was major disruption to rail services on the Brighton line after a person was hit by a train near Haywards Heath. Only a few services could run between Brighton and London by diverting through Lewes.

Coincidentally, a fortnight ago Arun District councillors called for the Arundel Chord to be looked at again. This very short stretch of new track would connect the North-South running Arun Valley line with the coastal line just below Arundel.

At present, trains running south from Arundel can only ‘turn right’ towards Littlehampton, Bognor Regis or Chichester. They cannot ‘turn left’ towards Worthing or Brighton.

This means that direct services can’t run from Horsham - a growing town - to Worthing or Brighton, and the Arun Valley line cannot be used as a relief route when incidents or works affect the Brighton line, as they did this week.

I persuaded Network Rail to look at the case for the Arundel Chord, and they did so in their Area Route Study which was published in 2015. However, this concluded that the Chord would offer low value for money.

The study said that the 1km of extra single track would cost £35-75 million. Diversions using the chord would reduce journey times by 20 minutes per passenger compared to trains having to reverse at Littlehampton or Ford.

However, the study said that the value of the route would be limited because platform constraints mean that only some trains can turn west when they leave Brighton.

It also said that the lack of any additional paths being available between Sutton and London in the peak for trains would “constrict the number of services that can be diverted in times of perturbation.”

The study also found that running an off-peak service from Horsham to Brighton would deliver poorer journey times than if passengers travelled from Horsham to Brighton by changing at Three Bridges.

I recognise that new investment is coming to our rail service, with the £150 million Gatwick upgrade, and work on a crucial major scheme to unblock the Croydon bottleneck will begin in 2023 when funding is approved.

But with a growing population I believe we need to go much further. The entire rail network in the South needs a fundamental upgrade to modernise and meet rising demand, and the Arundel Chord should be looked at again in that context.