In late December, at an Eastbourne unLtd board meeting we discussed at some length the adverse impact the rail dispute is having on business in East Sussex and the most effective action we might be able to take to help resolve the matter. We discussed our frustration at the lack of ownership being taken by central Government to take steps to reinstate a rail service that is fit for purpose and we talked about the statutory obligation the Government has to the local economy to oversee and ensure that such a service is provided.
Our view is that all parties - the Unions, Southern Rail (Govia) and HM Government need to work together to bring this dispute to an end. We do not seek to take sides, or blame any one party but we cannot sit by and let our economy suffer whilst the dispute and delays go on"
Christina Ewbank - Chief Executive
As Chambers of Commerce, it is our job to represent businesses and to robustly make our collective case for action and intervention to protect the economy and therefore our members. The approach would be not to stamp our feet but to be very firm and controlled in bringing to the attention of the Government the impact on the economy both short and longer term. The Government is about job creation and we are currently staring significant job losses in the face due to this ongoing dispute.
On the 22nd of December, we sent letters to all of our local MPs, ASLEF, the RMT, Govia Thameslink/Southern Rail, Chris Grayling Secretary of State at the Department of Transport and Paul Maynard, the Rail Minister. You can view these letters at the following links:
This week (9th January 2017) Christina Ewbank (Chief Executive of Eastbourne unLtd) met with the minister for Rail (Paul Maynard MP) along with other representatives of ACES (The Alliance of Chambers in East Sussex) as well as Caroline Ansell.
Christina explained that the current dispute is having a devastating effect on local business and that many of our members are now in serious trouble. It was explained that we do not take sides and were not able to blame either the unions or GTR but had come to appeal to Mr Maynard, our representative in government, to ask him to take urgent action to intercede on our behalf, before it is too late.
The continued strike action and delays have had a devastating impact on our local economy, and that of East Sussex for well over a year. Whilst we remain non-political, we also believe that the ongoing deadlock between the unions, Southern Rail (Govia Thameslink) and the Department for Transport is only serving to prolong the chaos. We believe that the Government has a responsibility to ensure our trains are running, and should now intervene, with no pre-conditions to ensure a resolution to this strike.
These strikes have only served to demonstrate that whilst East Sussex remains one of the 15 areas of growth, its economic potential is held back by a failure to invest in our infrastructure. With the poor condition of the A27, the A259, rail and indeed the capacity of Gatwick Airport, now is the time for Government to show that Sussex is open for business and demonstrate the same confidence in our area that businesses have"
Tim Cobb - Chamber President
Christina also asked for help to promote the fact that East Sussex is ‘open for business’ and we asked for infrastructure investments to be supported by the government, explained that the rail situation is exacerbated by our very weak road infrastructure which cannot cope with the increased traffic and by slow rural broadband and mobile coverage making it difficult for commuters to work from home.
We continue to press the Government to intercede and resolve this dispute as well as the Unions and Southern Rail. In the meantime, please do complete the survey (here) if you have been affected to add to our evidence.
With thanks to Eastbourne Buzz for permitting use www.eastbournebuzz.co.uk
Why I'm a Member
"Being involved with the Chamber means I'm able to meet and network with the best and most forward-looking businesses in the area"
Neil Hooper - Handelsbanken