PLANS to stop overnight services on the Brighton mainline could damage the regional economy and must not go ahead, say opponents.

Yesterday we revealed cuts to trains in the New Year.

The proposals mean:

• During the week there will be no Southern or Gatwick Express trains from Victoria to anywhere south of East Croydon between just past midnight and 4.40am

• There will be a 70 per cent reduction in overnight and early morning services on the Brighton mainline from Victoria and around 50 per cent from London overall.

Now regional business groups, the Crawley MP and a major employment hub have joined forces to stop the plans.

They argue the proposals mean people will find it harder to get to work early, make morning meetings, fly out on holiday or even get home from a night out.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of Gatwick Diamond Business – an organisation that represents 400 companies across the region – said: “The consultation documents provide no explanation about why such a dramatic cut in the service is proposed but it is thought to relate to requests from Network Rail for access to maintain the line.

“We think the lines can be taken out of service for shorter periods or in a smarter way to avoid such a harsh slashing of the existing service.

“We are raising these concerns publicly before a public consultation on the issue closes in just a few days, on December 20, and we are urging key regional organisations including local government and other businesses and also individuals that rely on these services to make their views known via the GTR website consultation page.”

Up to one fifth of Gatwick’s passengers departing the airport and up to 30 per cent of staff travel to the airport before the first London Victoria train of the day.

There is a similar picture for inbound passengers arriving late at night.

Guy Stephenson, Chief Commercial Officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “Gatwick has grown into one of Europe’s most important international airports and these proposals are a backward step and run contrary to measures elsewhere.”