WEST SUSSEX RAIL USERS ASSOCIATION
64, Brampton Court, Stockbridge Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8PD
Tel: 01243 788028
This is a short newsletter with details of membership renewal, the 2015 AGM and why we are postponing this until later in the year, temporary Committee structure, May timetable changes and current performance.
Our membership year runs from 1 March and subscriptions for 2014-15 are now due. Many members have already paid their subscription either directly or by standing order. If you have not paid, a renewal form is enclosed. The subscription remains at £2 and can be paid by cheque through the post, by cheque or in cash at the AGM, by direct bank credit or by standing order, the renewal form gives details of all these options. A few did not pay their subscriptions for last year and rather than deleting them as members, we are asking them to pay for 2 years and for those members the payment slip shows £4.
Michael Cover has resigned as Chairman because of the pressure of his business work. His departure will be a huge loss to the Association. Michael spearheaded the discussions with the five bidders for the Franchise as well as the response to the Network Rail Sussex Route Study. Nigel Denton, who represented Littlehampton and Angmering as well as being our representative on Rail Future has also resigned.
We are fortunate that James Marchant our Billingshurst representative has agreed to be co-opted as Chairman until the AGM. On the AGM, our normal Horsham venue is fully booked for the Saturdays in May and June when the meeting would have normally taken place. For this reason and because of the changes in our Officers, we have postponed the AGM until the autumn and it will now take place on a date to be arranged in late September or October. Some members have said that they would prefer to have the AGM on a weekday evening rather than a Saturday morning and we are asking for your views on this, Please send me a reply by e-mail, post or phone saying which you prefer — Tuesday to Friday evening in Horsham at 7pm or Saturday morning in Horsham at 10.30am. I will let you know once a date has been fixed and I will give details of those Officers and Committee members seeking re-election. We will certainly be looking for a new Chairman and we would be grateful for nominations/volunteers from the membership to fill this post. I would like to hand over the task of preparing these Newsletters and step down as Treasurer and Membership Secretary if there are volunteers to take this on. More about this in the next Newsletter.
The main changes to our services are:
16.14 Victoria to Three Bridges will
terminate at Gatwick;
17.49 London Bridge to Bognor will depart at 17.48;
18.04 Victoria to Bognor and Portsmouth will not call at Gatwick;
18.26 Victoria to Brighton will not call at Three Bridges;
05.29 Havant to Victoria will run 7 minutes earlier to Three Bridges arriving 06.34 with a 06.41 connection to London Bridge;
06.06 Bognor to Victoria, 06.49 Horsham will run 1 minute earlier throughout and will be increased from 8 to 12 coaches;
06.41 Bognor to Victoria, 07.24 Horsham will depart 1 minute earlier;
06.57 Bognor, 06.58 Chichester to London Bridge, 07.46 Horsham will depart 3 minutes earlier but arrives at London Bridge as now.
I would need a volume to report on performance since the start of 2015. We are already talking to Southern management and Network Rail and we will report fully on these discussions in our next Newsletter.
WSRUA's president, Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, met with the Rail Minister on 6 January to discuss services in West Sussex. You can read about it on his website.
We now have a Facebook page at facebook.com/wsrua. Please “like” it if you want to keep in touch and contribute through that medium.
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has been appointed President of the West Sussex Rail Users Association (WSRUA).
The voluntary group invited the local MP to take up the role in their Association because of his work to improve local rail journeys and as a regular user of the local services.
The West Sussex Rail Users Association was established to be a unified voice that represents the interests of rail users in West Sussex to ensure their needs are understood and met.
The Association has been campaigning for increased investment and significant improvements in rail services for West Sussex. It also works with the public transport sector and local authorities to establish an integrated public transport in the County.
Mr Herbert has 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 the MP’s request Network Rail have included the Arundel Chord in a broader Route Study which will be complete by the end of this year. The final document is expected early next year.
Michael Cover, Chairman of the West Sussex Rail Users Association said: “We are delighted to welcome Nick Herbert MP as our new President. It is a great honour that Nick has been able to take up this role and we very much look forward to working with him and other stakeholders, including the West Sussex County Council, to achieve better connectivity and faster trains for rail users up and down the Arun Valley and along the West Coastway.”
Nick Herbert said: “Many of my constituents 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, and the major upgrade underway at London Bridge will make a huge difference to services in the future, but there are many ongoing issues about punctuality, cleanliness of trains and parking at the stations like Pulborough that need to be addressed.
“I was delighted to be invited to become President of the West Sussex Rail Users Association and I look forward to working with and supporting them to represent the interests of rail users.”
As notified in the May 2014 Newsletter, the WSRUA AGM 2014 was held on 31st May 2014. The draft minutes can be downloaded here; these will be presented for approval at the 2015 AGM. The Q&A session with our speaker David Scorey, Operations Director of Southern Railway is also included.
The Arun Valley resignalling finally commenced operation on Monday 17 March. All the mechanical signals along the line have been removed and replaced by modern colour light signals controlled from the Three Bridges Centre. The Billingshurst level crossing is also controlled from Three Bridges. The signal boxes at Billingshurst, Pulborough and Amberley have been taken out of use. The Grade 2 listed Billingshurst box has been removed for preservation at the Amberley Working Museum. The Pulborough box is being retained by Network Rail and the Amberley box, which is on the station has been boarded up as shown in the photo. We hope that a use can be found for this unique building.
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
From the Minister of State, the Rt. Hon. Simon Burns MP
Tel: 020 7944 3082, Fax: 020 7944 4492, Web site: www.gov.uk/dft
19 August 2013
Monica Edmonds, Chairman, West Sussex Rail Users Association
Dear Ms Edmonds
Thank you for your email of 13 August, to Norman Baker MP, about the Thameslink Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) rail franchise competition. I am replying as Minister of State responsible for Rail.
We are, as you observe, in the process of finalising the specification for this franchise competition, having reviewed all the responses received to the consultation we ran last year. Some of the items you have listed will be included in the specification and some will not.
In particular we will not be requiring the new franchisee to invest in new infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is best implemented by Network Rail, because NR is able to raise investment capital at cheaper rates than Train Operating Companies can, and is able to amortise the project over the lifetime of the asset, which is typically much longer than the average franchise length. Government priorities for Network Rail investment for the years 2014 to 2019 were published last year, and are available on the website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-level-output-specification-2012.
With regard to train services the specification will call for a service broadly similar to that which operates today, but will stress that this is the minimum requirement. Bidders are being encouraged to develop proposals for enhanced services where they can make robust cases for doing so. Tonbridge to Gatwick might be an example of such a service. We will, however, be specifying that Thameslink services must serve Horsham once the Thameslink programme is complete in 2018, and that they may run beyond Horsham if bidders can make a case for such extensions.
We will also be requiring bidders to examine critically all lines of expenditure, consistent with the Government’s intention to reduce the burden of railway operating costs on the taxpayer. It is unlikely (but not impossible), therefore, that bidders will plan to withdraw the class 313 rolling stock because this fleet is comparatively cheap to lease, and because it has recently undergone an expensive refurbishment programme.
We will be encouraging bidders to propose measures to improve the passenger experience. Such initiatives might include improvements to car parking arrangements or re-introduction of on-train catering facilities, but we will not be specifying any particular measures. The train operating community has greater first-hand experience of passenger requirements than Government so we do not believe that we should be prescriptive in such matters.
I hope this information is helpful.
THE RT. HON. SIMON BURNS
Following the resumption by DfT in the franchise process we have written to Norman Baker MP the Parliamentary Under Secretary responsible for rail matters at DfT. Our letter informed him of the priorities and needs of users of the Arun Valley and West Coastway; the full text of the letter is on our Campaigns page. The letter was also copied to the six MPs whose constituencies we represent. The priorities reflect WSRUA membership and rail user surveys in 2012 and 2013 and are as follows:
WSRUA will be meeting all the bidders for the new combined Thameslink-Southern franchise over the coming months to raise their awareness of the potential for growth of the Arun Valley and West Coastway and of users’ priorities for the service. We have asked Michael Cover to take the lead on this will report further on the attitudes and aspirations of each bidder to rail services for West Sussex in future Newsletters and on the website.
When I cancelled the competition for the InterCity West Coast
franchise last October, I also put on hold the live competitions
for 3 other rail franchises. Having carefully considered the
options for these 3 competitions, including the recommendations of
the independent review by Richard Brown, Chairman of Eurostar, I
have this morning informed the stock market of my decisions about
these 3 competitions. I am also today publishing Mr Brown’s advice
about these competitions, having previously redacted it from his report in view of its potentialstock market sensitivity.
In summary, Mr Brown recommended that the government should look
to continue the existing competitions for Essex Thameside and for
the combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise. I
accept those recommendations, and accordingly the competition for
the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise will also be
resumed, with an invitation to tender being issued to the
existing short-listed bidders. This will be for a 7-year
contract term, again as previously announced. Consistent with Mr Brown’s recommendation, I expect this to be more of a management-style contract. This different approach will require more time to develop and test the proposition with the market, and I will set out the timetable for this competition in the spring.
In keeping with the relevant invitations to tender, which made clear that bidders are responsible for their own costs, I do not believe it would be appropriate to reimburse the bidders.
The existing franchises for these services will expire before new long-term contracts can be put in place, so interim arrangements will be required to ensure continuity of rail services. My department has exercised its contractual right to extend the current franchise agreement with First Great Western for a further period of 28 weeks, and I intend to do the same in respect of First Capital Connect.
I have also instructed my department to commence negotiations with the existing train operators (First Great Western, First Capital Connect and c2c) with a view to entering into new interim franchise agreements with them. For Essex Thameside and Thameslink, the period of these interim agreements will be determined by the time needed to complete the competitions for the longer-term franchises, and will not exceed 2 years.
The government continues with its multi-billion pound programme of investment in the rail network regardless of the delay to the franchising programme, and my department will seek to ensure wherever possible that the benefits for passengers previously sought in new substantive franchise agreements are not delayed.
I am mindful of my statutory duty to ensure the continuity of rail services and so, in parallel with my department entering into negotiations with the incumbent train operators, I will also be instructing Directly Operated Railways, a government owned company, to undertake the minimum preparatory measures necessary to operate train services in circumstances where I am unable to agree the terms of an interim agreement with the existing train operator.
WSRUA gave a brief presentation on our work and current activities at the Community Rail Partnership stakeholder event held on 1st November 2012 at Christ's Hospital School. A copy of the slide set is available to view here (PDF).
Below is a Southern Press Notice about their Eyewitness initiative to deter and report low-level crime on the Arun Valley line. Your Association Chairman, Jane Cobb was at the launch on Arundel station and we will keep you informed of developments and progress in future Newsletters and on the website.
Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Nick Herbert MP has launched Southern’s internal Eyewitness initiative to the public for the first time at Arundel railway station.
Mr Herbert joined Southern senior staff, Rail User Group and West Sussex Community Rail Partnership representatives to launch a trial of Southern’s award winning low-level crime reporting system to passengers who use Southern services between Arundel and Crawley.
Eyewitness is a scheme which allows the reporting of low-level crime by e-mail. The system has been used successfully as an in-house system where Southern staff have e-mailed members of Southern’s Safer Travel and Revenue Protection Teams to report incidences of vandalism, anti-social behaviour and fare evasion. The system allows Southern to respond quickly where officers are in the area, and to identify patterns, trends and hotspots which enables more intelligent deployment of Rail Neighbourhood Officers and Revenue Protection Officers when detailing patrols.
Commenting on the initiative, Mr Herbert said: "I was delighted to help launch the next phase of Southern's Eyewitness scheme which will provide passengers with an effective way to report antisocial behaviour on trains.
"This is further action by Southern who already fund Rail Neighbourhood Officers to help tackle crime and provide a reassuring uniformed presence on trains and at stations. The scheme doesn’t replace police officers, it adds to them, and I believe it's welcomed by the public.
"The minority who can make rail journeys miserable for everyone else need to be dealt with, and I am pleased that Southern is playing its part."
Southern’s Head of Revenue Protection and Security, Martin Grier said: “Eyewitness has been a tremendous success since we introduced it internally 18 months ago. Now we look forward to even better results now that we are asking our passengers to tell us about low-level crime that they have seen.”
In the last 12 months, reported crime on the Arun Valley has fallen overall by 71%. At Billingshurst station, incidences of crime reduced from 28 last year to zero this year.
Passengers witnessing crime between Arundel and Crawley stations can report what they’ve see, where they saw it, when they saw it and a brief description of the offender(s) by sending an e-mail to the dedicated address found on posters at leaflets at staffed stations between Arundel and Crawley.