A Conservative MP has announced that he will not stand at the upcoming general election.

Huw Merriman, who has been MP for Bexhill and Battle for nine years, made the announcement this afternoon.

He said he has loved being an MP and leaves with a “heavy heart”.

The 50-year-old, who was also rail minister, joins Conservative MP for Crawley Henry Smith, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Tim Loughton and Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas in not running at the next general election.

In his letter, Mr Merriman did not specify a reason for his departure but thanked his staff, local Conservative association and the Prime Minister, and paid tribute to his constituency.

“The constituency is a beautiful place, with wonderful people in every town and village,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work across the community, and political divide, with some fantastic people.  I’ve also been fortunate to have had the best constituency staff, and Association, an MP could ask for.

“Transport has been my passion throughout my time in Parliament.  I am grateful to have served for seven years on the Transport Select Committee, with almost three as chairman. I’ve loved my time as rail minister and am grateful to the Prime Minister for trusting me with this important portfolio.

“I wish my successor well in their role as member of parliament. To both the next MP for Bexhill and Battle and to a future rail minister: if these roles bring even half the amount of happiness as they have brought me, then it will make you very proud.

“Thank you to all of the amazing people I have met on my journey. I will miss everything but, as I sit in the political departure lounge, I am looking forward to a new journey (whatever that might be).”

Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a summer election surprised many in Westminster, who had been expecting an autumn poll.

The news has reportedly caused disquiet among some Tory MPs fearful of losing their jobs, and newspaper reports have suggested Cabinet ministers voiced concerns about the decision.

Voters will head to the polls on July 4.