Significant recent changes to the train timetables between Brighton and London are causing havoc for furious commuters.
A new Southern rail schedule, introduced in mid-December, has led to chaos for commuters as some journey times have increased by up to two hours. The amendments to the train timetable include the welcome extension of the Gatwick Express service (with six services now scheduled every morning and evening during the week), but has also included the severely unpopular and impractical cutting by Southern rail company of the number of trains stopping at stations East Croydon and Clapham Junction, two vital rail junctions for those on the daily commute. Only one direct train now runs to the major metropolitan terminal, London Bridge, from Brighton each morning. The changes have resulted in overcrowding on trains, serious delays, increased journey times and irate commuters.
The amendments have even pushed some extremely disgruntled residents to say they may consider moving away from Brighton.
However, moving away is not an option for students living in Brighton during term time. Sussex students, many of whom make regular use of the trains, have been greatly affected by the changes. Due to the proximity of Sussex University to London and the fact that many students live in or around the capital, the changes to the train timetables will have a negative impact on students’ journeys, making it increasingly difficult for them to get quickly and easily from Brighton to London and dissuading many from travelling so frequently.
First-year Sussex student Izzy travels back by train every other weekend to her home in North London to see her boyfriend, but says: “Now I feel there’s no option. I’m going to have to cut back on the number of times I can see him and I’m worried that’s going to put a strain on our relationship.”
Lack of parking in and around Brighton and the expense involved in owning and running a car means travel by train is often the only option for most cash-strapped students wanting to get out of the city for a weekend.
Changes to the timetable are not the only factor causing problems for Sussex students using the railways lately. The recently announced hike in prices, varying from area to area, will see Southern ticket prices soar by 4.3% (about 1% above the rate of inflation). This will have a major impact on students who feel they can no longer afford to make use of this form of public transport, either to get to and from uni or to travel in and out of London.
Struggling students, already suffering from the knowledge they will graduate with thousands of pounds of debt and hit, like everybody else, by the economic recession, feel this is the last straw. Train tickets now seem to be another luxury they can’t really afford.
“It was already expensive travelling to university and back home by train but now it seems extortionate, and I’m not sure whether I’ll still be able to afford to visit friends and family at home as often as I’d like to,” says second year student Alex.