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Off peak travels helps boost Sussex rail use
3:20pm Monday 2nd April 2012 in In Depth
Passenger journeys through Sussex train stations have risen as much as 5% in a year.
Figures released by the Office of Rail Regulation showed last year there were almost 7.25 million journeys from Brighton Station – up 375,714 on the year before.
Almost 160,000 more people travelled to Gatwick Airport by train in 2010/11 than the previous year with a total of 6.5 million journeys made and there were an extra 30,000 people catching the train at Hove Station.
The increase will fuel concerns about overcrowding but also illustrates the draw of the train service in Sussex.
Train operators Southern Railway and First Capital Connect (FCC) have welcomed the growing popularity of train travel.
Shelley Atlas, chair of Brighton Line Commuters, said: “Numbers have been increasing over the years. Railway companies have to look at ways they can relieve it.
“They need to make sure there are enough trains and paths. It is very difficult. They do need to look at it. People feel they have to commute to London. They don’t have a choice because there are not the jobs down here or the money.”
Enthusiasts behind the campaign to reopen the Wealden line and create a second main line between Brighton and London argue overcrowding will continue to be an issue until there is extra capacity on the network.
Brian Hart from the Wealden Line Campaign said: “Less crowding, better punctuality and expanded services will only happen once Sussex gains more route capacity, which means a second main line to London.
“Train operators can’t build new lines – that decision is between the Government and the Department for Transport who own our state-managed network.
“The Brighton Line is full up with trains and passengers. But rather than invest in Sussex by expanding our network, the Government wants ‘Super Peak’ fares charged, hoping less well-off commuters will travel at quieter periods. If this was possible, those same commuters would already be travelling ‘off-peak’.”
However, train operators say a lot of the growth has been on off-peak journeys, where there is spare capacity.
An FCC spokesman said: “Rail travel is proving more and more popular which is good news for the country and the environment but which puts a strain on the network. That’s why we have increased the size of our train fleet on the Thameslink route by more than 45% since we took over the franchise in 2006 and cut by more than a half the number of short four-carriage trains timetabled to run in the morning and evening peaks.”
A Southern spokesman said: “Passenger numbers continue to grow on the railway as more and more people see it as a much better proposition than the car. We are especially delighted that a major reason behind passenger growth at Brighton and Gatwick stations is the increase in off-peak travel on our services.”