Sussex and Coastway

Our Sussex and Coastway Division is an integral part of Railfuture's London and South East regional branch. We aim to be the leading independent advocate for the rail industry and rail users in the area.


Our area covers East and West Sussex (including the City of Brighton & Hove, and the 'MarshLink' to Ashford International in Kent), and includes the South Downs National Park, but excludes the far south west area of West Sussex which is covered by Railfuture Wessex branch.

Within our Sussex & Coastway Division there are five Rail User Groups affiliated to Railfuture:
We also work closely with Three Oaks & Winchelsea Action on Rail Transport (THWART) - email John Spencer jds at winsea.plus.com - their latest success was on Sunday 21 May 2023 with the new Southern timetable marking the return of all-day every day hourly services; see Rye News story.

The local Community Rail Partnership in our area is the Southeast Communities Rail Partnership.


We usually meet on the first Thursday of each month (except in July with a mid-month meeting, and none in August) at 18.00 (roughly alternating between virtual meetings via Zoom and in-person at venues around East and West Sussex).

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 7th March 2024 ONLINE at 18.00.
The following meeting will be in-person on Thursday 11th April, at 18.00 in the Methodist church hall, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 3DN.

Our first meeting of 2022 considered Railfuture's response to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the South East's Call for Evidence for its inquiry on Financing for the future – what does levelling up mean for South East England? which closed on 12 January 2022.

Guest speaker at our 2 September 2021 meeting was from Network Rail on the Kent and East Sussex Coastal Connectivity Programme.

Before our mid-July meeting we had our customary Bridge the gap and Electrify Uckfield campaign stall at Uckfield Festival's 'Big Day' at Luxford Field, central Uckfield on Saturday 10 July 2021.

On 4 March we were joined by Sean Dennis of Hastings Chamber of Commerce.

At our 4 February meeting we were joined by Chris Bending, Wealden District Council's Head of Policy and Economic Development, discussing the Wealden Local Plan in the context of the recent Direction of Travel consultation; see our response here.

At our first meeting of 2021 on 7 January we welcomed guest speakers from GTR, Rob Whitehead Community Engagement Officer and Phil Hutchinson Head of Strategic Planning.

We paused on 5 November 2020 to remember our former Minutes Secretary Rev. Michael Davies who had passed away exactly one month earlier.

On 1 October we had a presentation from Network Rail's Paul Best on the recently-published West Sussex Connectivity Strategic Study; see the Study in How to improve West Coastway rail services below.

On 3 September we considered at some length an emerging draft Prospectus for the train operating contract/s which would succeed the current Thameslink / Southern / Great Northern management contract held by GTR.

At our 23 July online meeting we had a report from a Transport for the South East speaker on progress with their Transport Strategy, finally adopted the previous week, and moving on to Area Studies starting with an Outer Orbital Area Study, in turn leading to a Strategic Investment Plan by April 2022. View Rob Dickin's presentation here.

On 5 March in St. Leonards we had feedback from participants on the 28 February event held at Cooden Beach and Rye organised by the Hastings & Rother Rail Users Alliance, comprising five local rail user groups and Railfuture, reported in Rye News.

Our guest speaker on 6 February at Shoreham Port was Paul Best, Senior Strategic Planner with Network Rail, briefing us on latest developments with their West Sussex Connectivity work - see How to improve West Coastway rail services under Activities below.

Our guest speaker on 9 January 2020 in Cooksbridge was Phil Hutchinson, GTR's Head of Strategic Planning, who explained the new timetable from May 2020 to accommodate the works to rebuild Gatwick Airport station concourse and associated platform alterations. See his presentation here.


The Sussex and Coastway division is leading two major campaigns:
  • Uckfield Lewes. Reinstating a rail link between Uckfield and Lewes will enable residents of the Weald to travel to reach jobs and education in Brighton to support economic growth and spread prosperity in the county, create an additional route between London and the South Coast to help relieve the Brighton Main Line, and pave the way for Thameslink 2. Development of a garden village in the area served by the line would both meet the need for new homes to satisfy Brighton's growing employment market, and justify reinstating the railway between Uckfield and Lewes to serve it. Until 3 September 2021 Lewes District Council is consulting on Issues and Options for the next Local Plan.
  • Marshlink. Reducing journey-times by raising the line-speed between Ashford and Doleham from 60mph to 90mph and from Doleham to Ore/Hastings from 40mph to 60mph, and redoubling the single line section either between Rye and Winchelsea or between Rye and Appledore will enable a service frequency of two trains per hour; electrification would enable a cleaner quieter service. This will provide the potential for through trains between Eastbourne-Bexhill-Hastings-Rye and London via Ashford International which will support economic growth particularly in Hastings, and an improved service at the smaller stations.
After submitting a supportive letter in May 2018 to Rother Valley Railway's application for a Transport & Works Act Order, we welcome the Order granted on 9 May 2023.

We contributed to the East Sussex Rail Strategy and Action Plan in 2013. The two key objectives of the Action Plan are to upgrade and electrify Marshlink and the Uckfield line, as building blocks for a high speed Javelin-type service between Eastbourne-Bexhill-Hastings-Rye and London St. Pancras and reinstatement of Uckfield - Lewes respectively.

How to improve West Coastway rail services - following their first workshop for West Sussex stakeholders on 28 January 2019 and their presentation to our 4 April 2019 Worthing meeting, Network Rail in June published a West Sussex Connectivity CMSP Newsletter, and a West Sussex CMSP Market Study. In August Network Rail published a second West Sussex Connectivity CMSP Newsletter and then held a second workshop for West Sussex stakeholders on 19 August 2019; see notes and feedback. Our 3 October meeting in Durrington-on-Sea had an update presentation from Network Rail. Our 6 February 2020 meeting at Shoreham Port received a further update from Network Rail on West Sussex Connectivity. In July 2020 the final West Sussex Connectivity Modular Strategic Study was published. In August neighbouring Wessex branch advocated a service, using West Coastway, between Brighton and Swindon via Southampton Airport Parkway, in response to the airport's planning application to Eastleigh Borough Council for a longer runway.
Transport for the South East (TfSE) have adopted their Transport Strategy and are developing a Strategic Investment Plan with five Area Studies, and some thematic studies, contributing to it. The first Forum for the first Area Study, for the Outer Orbital Area which includes West and East Coastway corridors, met in October 2020.

View two presentations to Tunbridge Wells Public Transport Forum on Thursday 7 February 2019:
Branch Vice-Chair's on A rail future for Tunbridge Wells.
Network Rail's on Continuous Modular Strategic Planning (CMSP)

Latest news and developments with the two campaigns feature in the centre pages of every railse, our quarterly branch newsletter. See also our Sussex Facebook group.

Stay up-to-date with all Railfuture and other regional and national events and key rail dates.

Keep up with all other London & South East rail development campaigning news in our branch newsletters: the quarterly railse and monthly inter-railse.

Previous Meetings

Our guest speaker on 7 November 2019 in Hassocks was Paul Harwood, Network Rail's Investment Director, Southern Region, explaining the rebuild of Gatwick Airport station concourse and associated platform alterations, starting works in May 2020. See his presentation here.

Our guest speaker on 3 October in Durrington-on-Sea was Network Rail's Simon Hulse, updating us on their West Coastway Connectivity CMSP work - see How to improve West Coastway rail services under Activities below.

Our guest speaker on 18 July in Haywards Heath was TfSE's Transport Strategy Manager Rob Dickin, who manages the development of the transport strategy as well as leading on engagement with the rail industry. See his presentation here.

Our 4 April meeting in Worthing was on the theme How to improve West Coastway rail services with presentations (click on name to view) from the South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE), West Sussex County Council, and Network Rail. See Network Rail's more detailed presentation to West Sussex stakeholders on 28 January 2019. Refer also to Network Rail's presentation on Continuous Modular Strategic Planning (CMSP) to the Tunbridge Wells Public Transport Forum on 7 February 2019, below.

Our guest speaker on 7 February 2019, just before a weekend closure and then the 9-day closure of the Brighton Main Line south of Three Bridges to Brighton and to Lewes: BML-IP, was Network Rail's Orlagh Ennis, Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Brighton Main Line Improvement Project. View her comprehensive presentation by clicking on NR-BML-OE.

Our guest speakers on 19 July 2018 in Haywards Heath were Catherine Folca from Transport Focus and David Statham and Andy Wakeford on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group, on the topic of fares and ticketing, currently undergoing public consultation until Monday 10 September. View the presentations by clicking on RDG-DS/AW and TF-CF.

On 7 June 2018 we had presentations from Antony Merlyn from GTR and Victoria Garcia from Brighton & Hove Buses, on the theme of Accessibility. View the presentations by clicking on GTR-AM and B&HB-VG.

Take Part

We campaign for sustainable growth in market share for rail transport. Therefore we support initiatives which will improve the attraction of rail and create a successful, financially secure rail industry: sufficient capacity, efficient customer service, simpler fares, improved connectivity, faster schedules, network enhancements and improved competitiveness with other modes of transport. If you share these ideals please contact us or join here. We welcome new members, and people to share practical ideas and to help put plans into action.


Convener: John Black - jcbblack at yahoo.co.uk
Secretary: Robert Cheesman - robertcheesman at btinternet.com

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