A major campaign to support improvements to the Brighton main railway line to London is to be joined by Adur and Worthing Councils.
Both Councils say it is crucial for the local economy that the rail line is upgraded as evidence emerges that its poor state is having a negative impact on economic growth in the region.
They have now joined the Brighton Mainline Alliance which is urging the government to make upgrading the line a top priority for investment.
According to a report for the Councils the region served by the railway line from south London down to Brighton and across to Chichester contributes almost £50bn a year to the UK economy.
Yet there is evidence that recent economic growth in the region is not keeping pace with the rest of the South East with ‘strong evidence to suggest poor rail infrastructure is suppressing growth in the region and negatively influencing strategic investment decisions from business.’
Passenger journeys on Southern and Thameslink services have risen 10 per cent to 105 million per annum in the last five years and increasing severe crowding is predicted, the report says.
Crucially the Alliance is calling for a commitment to remove the bottleneck at Windmill Bridge Junction just north of East Croydon station.
Here trains to Victoria and London Bridge are joined by suburban services causing long waiting times, reducing capacity and leading to long delays on scheduled services.
Flyovers and extra platforms at East Croydon are needed but the government must move fast, says the report, because demand for land in the area is high and an opportunity might be lost.
The Alliance scored an early victory last week when the government confirmation of government of funding for Network Rail to deliver the design stages of the project.
Now known as the Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme, the funding from the Department for Transport means Network Rail can now work up detailed designs for the track and station work in the Croydon area, produce an outline business case and carry out a full public consultation.
Leader of Worthing Borough Council, Cllr Dan Humphreys said, “ We all have first-hand knowledge of the problems with this line. Travelling on it is often a complete misery so I’m pleased we now have funding to look at designs at East Croydon.
“But more importantly there are clear signs that it is affecting the economy of the area and given that we contribute so much to the overall UK we say upgrading this line to increase capacity must be a key priority for government.”
Leader of Adur District Council Cllr Neil Parkin added, “ Last week’s announcement was a good start but we must keep up the pressure because this is not just a Brighton issue. It affects us all and our economies. If businesses are starting to have second thoughts about relocating here, and there is some evidence they are, it will have a disproportionate effect on the whole economy.
“I don’t think the government will want to see a negative impact on the seventh largest regional economy in the UK.”
The Alliance has been established by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) a government investment body which brings together public, private and educations sectors to deliver sustainable investment and growth in an area that stretches from Croydon down through Gatwick to Brighton and across to Chichester.
More than 40 regional business groups and more than a dozen influential MPs have backed Brighton Mainline Alliance so far.