A CAMPAIGN group is calling for a train service linking coastal towns to be reinstated.

Transport Futures East Sussex (TFES) is calling on Southern Rail to increase the number of train services running between Hastings and Brighton back to the regularity it was pre-Covid.

Before the pandemic, two direct trains per hour ran between Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Polegate, Lewes, and Brighton. Currently, that has been cut to one train per hour.

Speaking for TFES, Derrick Coffee said: "Between Monday and Friday at any of the above stations, there is a gap of between 30 and 50 minutes between trains where before services were more evenly spaced through the hour.

"A more or less 'turn up and go' service, making the train an attractive option. If we don't get the service back quickly, there'll be more unwelcome car traffic, a setback for sustainability and the local economy. Currently, it's 'turn up and hang about."

The group is concerned that removing the direct train linking the towns permanently will increase carbon emissions and go against strategies to produce sustainable public transport.

TFES also argues that all sectors of the local economies will suffer as insufficient transport links will discourage travel into the towns by tourists. Travelling has also been made trickier for employees and students in the areas.

The Argus: Southern customer services director Chris FowlerSouthern customer services director Chris Fowler

Southern customer services director Chris Fowler said: "My colleagues at Southern have, like everyone, been affected by Covid-19 but maintained a rail service throughout the pandemic.

"During the worst of the lockdowns, they have kept trains running for doctors, nurses and other key workers to get to work. Now, as the vaccination programme takes effect and restrictions are easing, we have together stepped up our rail service.

"In our most recent timetable change, we put in extra trains along the route east of Brighton at times when we knew our trains were busier. These provide half-hourly services in the early morning and again in the late afternoon for day-trippers, supporting tourism and the local economy.

"Despite a campaign to reassure passengers that train travel is safe, there are still far fewer people using our services, and we also have fewer train crew available because of Covid-19.

"This is why we have struck a balance to run as many trains as possible to meet the reduced demand, while at the same time ensuring we have enough staff to run those services reliably."