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South Downs Society lobbies for better weekend rail services

Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates the Southern Rail franchise amongst others, is consulting on possible changes to its weekend timetable for 2018. The Society responded to GTR’s earlier consultation on weekday services and has now pressed for more frequent weekend stopping services at Amberley and Southease, two stations in the national park, close to the South Downs Way. At both stations many trains pass through without stopping: with little impact on the overall service it would seem reasonably straightforward  for all trains to stop, encouraging greater use by residents, walkers and other visitors to the national park. Our response appears below:

These are the comments of the South Downs Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park. The Society has nearly 2,000 members and its focus is the conservation of the special qualities of the national park and its quiet enjoyment. Satisfactory rail access, during the week and at weekends, plays a vital role in enabling local people and visitors to enjoy the national park by means other than the private car. This provision is a key element in this Society’s programme of walks aimed at encouraging enjoyment of the park by more environmentally sustainable means. Other groups, and many individuals– some with, some without access to a car — also rely on rail access, and weekends are a very important part of the week in this respect.

We will focus our comments on the timetables for Southease and Amberley stations, both of which provide ready access to the South Downs Way national trail and other local recreation facilities including the Southease youth hostel and the Amberley Museum. 
The service on this line on both Saturday and Sunday is half hourly but only alternate trains stop at Southease, providing an hourly service.  If all trains stopped at Southease, providing a half hourly service, this would surely create no significant issues for the overall service but be a boon for walkers.
The same remarks apply to the Saturday service at Amberley. If all trains on this line stopped at Amberley there would be a half hourly service, of much benefit to local residents, walkers and other visitors.
We trust you will afford suitable weight to these comments.
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A better rail service for Cooksbridge?

Govia Thameslink Railway, which includes Southern Rail, is currently carrying out a public consultation on possible timetable revisions (this is for beyond the current strikes!)   The Society has responded to the consultation as follows:


During the previous round of consultation this Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park, requested that the timetable revisions under consideration should recognise the designation of the national park and the statutory duty on public agencies and utilities to have regard to that designation. In particular we pressed for an improved service to Cooksbridge station, providing enhanced access to the downs.

 On page 25 of the current consultation this need is acknowledged and the Society welcomes that recognition.
Qu. 35 poses a question in relation to the frequency of services at Plumpton and Cooksbridge. This Society, though regretting any proposed reduction in service at Plumpton would welcome the introduction of a two hourly service throughout the week at Cooksbridge.
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SDS asks for more stopping trains for national park

The South Downs Society, in responding to a timetable consultation by GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) Southern, has pressed for more frequent stopping trains at  Amberley, Cooksbridge and Southease for the benefit of local residents and visitors to the national park. The text of our submission is below:

“These are the comments of the South Downs Society in response to the above consultation. The Society has nearly 2,000 members and its focus is campaigning and fund raising for the conservation of the landscape of the South Downs National Park and its quiet enjoyment. Our comments will reflect this focus.

The Society supports and encourages access to the national park by more sustainable means, including by train, and therefore wishes to see the GTR timetable adequately reflect this objective. We are keen to support existing services close to and within the national park, especially those connected to the park through the rights of way network and including the South Downs Way. We also seek improvements to those services where they will encourage greater use of the train to access the national park. Although it may mean some slight increases in journey times, we believe that increased stopping frequencies at selected stations will greatly benefit those wishing to enjoy the special qualities of the national park and thus provide encouragement to use the train for recreational and other purposes.
In particular we would respond to certain questions posed in the consultation as follows:
Qu. 7: Mainline West via Horsham: Irrespective of the issue posed in relation to Redhill station, this Society would urge an increased frequency of trains stopping at Amberley from hourly to half-hourly to match the frequency at other stops on this line, like Pulborough.
Qu. 9: Mainline East: We would urge an increase in stopping frequency at Cooksbridge to hourly off-peak, seven days a week, to match services at Plumpton.
Qu. 13: Coastway East: We would support an increased stopping frequency at Southease to half-hourly in line with other stations on this route.
The Society believes that, along with other social and economic justifications for these improvements, they would serve to promote increased use of these services to provide access to the delights of the national park.” 
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The Society presses case for rail infrastructure

In response to a recent consultation by Network Rail on its Sussex Area Route Study, the Society submitted the following comments:

“These are the comments of the South Downs Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park. The Society has nearly 2,000 members and its focus is campaigning and fund raising for the conservation and enhancement of the landscape of the national park and its quiet enjoyment.

The Society is committed to the promotion of improved access to, and enjoyment of, the park’s special qualities by more sustainable means of transport, including the train. We are also conscious that there is a statutory duty on public bodies and utilities to have regard to the park’s designation and the social and economic wellbeing of its local communities.
To these ends the Society supports measures which will facilitate recreational and other access to, within and across the national park by rail as a more environmentally sustainable from of transport than the private car.

In particular, in terms of the current consultation, the Society supports calls for the reinstatement of a Lewes to Uckfield line and the construction of an Arundel chord. We believe that these measures will not only provide much needed relief and diversion capacity for the London to Brighton line but serve to facilitate a range of additional trips serving the national park.”