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The Sussex Community Rail Partnership is today (17th May) helping to launch a nationwide campaign to encourage people to explore ‘Scenic Rail Britain’.

The Sussex Community Rail Partnership will be at Blackfriars Station in London 6.30am-7.00pm today, promoting Scenic Rail Britain and highlighting the attractions of exploring historic Sussex by rail.scenic rail britain

A new website, scenicrailbritain.com, blog and social media campaign are being launched by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships and its members at stations around the country. They will offer inspiration and information to help tourists and day-trippers plan visits to epic landscapes, coastal scenes, historic sites and picturesque areas by train, particularly via Britain’s wonderful ‘community rail’ routes.

Kirsten Firth, Community Rail Development Manager at Sussex Community Rail Partnership, said: “Today’s event and the Scenic Rail Britain campaign is a great opportunity for us to promote our wonderful railway lines to thousands of commuters and potential visitors. We know very well that Sussex has so much to offer visitors: from the coast to countryside, seaside resorts to historic towns and picture-perfect villages to lively ports and marinas. We hope that Scenic Rail Britain will help us get the message across to wider audiences, and encourage people to visit by train rather than car. It’s an enjoyable way to travel that gives fantastic views, benefits the local economy, and means less traffic, noise and pollution in our local communities.”

Jools Townsend, chief executive of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, said: “We are excited to launch Scenic Rail Britain today with help from the Sussex Community Rail Partnership. This campaign is all about people explore our beautiful countryside and fascinating heritage through green, scenic and non-stressful travel. Many people don’t realise how easy it is to explore Britain’s stunning landscapes, pretty villages and historic sites by rail – and making use of our wonderful, often little-known, ‘community rail’ lines is a great way to do this. Anyone thinking of making a trip, or wanting to find out more about what’s on their doorstep, can check out scenicrailbritain.com, for practical tips, itineraries and inspiration.”

 

Southeastern rail passengers are facing higher fares on off peak journeys from the end of the month.

The rail operator is implementing increases of 3.4% or 10p, whichever is the greatest from May 21 2017.  It passengers have not been informed of the increase however the company said it did not “routinely announce fare rises”Southeastern Train

Campaigners described the move as “an appallingly high-handed way to treat passengers”.

About 640,000 journeys are currently made on 1,900 Southeastern trains every weekday.

Lianna Etkind of the Campaign for Better Transport said: “It’s bad enough that Southeastern passengers have had to put up with years of government-imposed peak fare rises while wages stagnate, but more back-door fare increase are unacceptable.

“We’re urging passengers to respond to the current Southeastern franchise consultation and tell the government that enough is enough, and passengers deserve proper value for money on their journeys.”

The rail company’s contract fro the running of the service expires in December next year.

Passengers in South-East London, Kent and East Sussex are being asked to give their views on the next franchise blue-print.

One option in the Department for Transport Consultation is a reduction in the number of trains calling at less well-used stations.

Under the proposals first-class travel could also be withdrawn.

The Department for Transport Consultation closes on 23 May 2017.

As from yesterday (April 24th 2017) motorists caught speeding will face tougher penalties.

The changes will see fines for motorists caught going well above the speed limit start from 150% of their weekly income, rather than the existing level of 100%.

This will mean that someone who is sentenced for driving at 101mph or faster in a 70mph zone will now be dealt with in a more severe bracket. Fines are determined in categories:

  • Band A is 50% of someone’s weekly income
  • Band B is 100% of someone’s weekly income
  • Band C is 150% of someone’s weekly income

Drivers will also face points or a disqualification depending on the offence. The guidelines apply to all motorists. Magistrates can still issue higher fines, impose a driving ban or sentence drivers to a prison sentence.

Anyone speeding at 51mph in a 30mph limit aces a fine equivalent to 150% of their weekly income. For anyone earning £25,000 a year, this means handing over a minimum of £720 – and they’ll also receive  penalty points on their driving license. This compares to an average speeding fine of £188 in 2015.

While speeding fines are not unlimited, they are high enough to hit even the wealthiest offender in the pocket. Under the new regime, the fine is capped to £2,500 for those caught speeding on the motorway and £1,000 everywhere else.

Magistrates can take mitigating or aggravating factors into account. For example, speeding because of an emergency and receiving a Band C fine, could see the fine reduced to 125% of the drivers weekly income.

Magistrates can also sentence outside of the guidelines if they feel that the interests of justice would be best served by doing so.

The leader of Hastings Borough Council, Cllr Peter Chowney, has welcomed the publication of the Department for Transport’s south eastern rail franchise public consultation document today (Tuesday 14th March).

Cllr Chowney said :- “This publication, ’Shaping the Future’, is vitally important for us, as it gives us the opportunity to comment on our train services going into the future when the rail franchise is re-let.

“It recognises that one of the challenges is to reduce long journey times, and actually uses Hastings as an example, saying ‘We want to speed up longer-distance journeys which have a very long journey time relative to the length of the route, for instance between London and Hastings.’

“It goes on to say that ‘One option is to operate High Speed services between St. Pancras and Hastings, Bexhill and Rye via Ashford International’, which I think is incredibly significant’.

“We have been developing a case for bringing high speed rail here for some time, and I am really pleased that this has been specifically acknowledged in this consultation document.

“I would urge everyone who wants high speed services here to comment on it.”

The Department for Transport is holding a public consultation event on the south eastern rail franchise in Muriel Matters House in Hastings, on Saturday 8th April, from 1100 until 1400. Entry is via the Tourist Information Centre in Breeds Place, on the seafront.

The full consultation document is available on line here.

Various rumours were swirling around Westminster in the days before Philip Hammond rose to deliver his first Budget – confirmed as the last time a major fiscal statement will be made in the spring.

The Chancellor, still scarcely nine months in the job, has a reputation as a cautious man and in advance many expected that much of today’s speech would be laying the ground for the Prime Minister to begin formal negotiations for the UK to leave the EU.

That said, the day before Mr Hammond stood up to address the Commons, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) upgraded Britain’s growth forecast, which inevitably raised questions about whether there was yet room for manoeuvre.

Would the Government prove willing to make money available to shore up struggling services or answer the growing criticism over business rates reforms? Would it be tax rises or surprise giveaways bothering the headline writers?

Economic overview

In his opening statement, the Chancellor said that the resilience of the UK economy had continued to defy expectations and the country had enjoyed robust growth. Indeed, he noted that last year Britain’s growth was behind only Germany’s among the world’s biggest economies.

Mr Hammond confirmed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had raised its growth forecasts for the year, with the economy now projected to grow by two per cent in 2017, compared with the previous estimate of 1.4 per cent. The independent body suggests growth next year will be 1.6 per cent and in 2019, 1.7 per cent.

But he made clear that there was no place for complacency in the current climate, acknowledging that levels of debt were still too high (peaking at 88.8 per cent next year), productivity needs to be improved and many families up and down the country continued to feel the pinch almost a decade on from the financial crash.

OBR figures also suggest that inflation will peak at 2.4 per cent this year, with expectations that it will drop off as we approach the end of the decade.

Trying to strike a balance between prudence and positivity, the Chancellor told MPs that the Budget presented an opportunity to put money into public services while ensuring that the nation continued to live within its means. Crucially, he said, the tax and spending plans would form the bedrock of the EU negotiations ahead.

Business and enterprise

Following several weeks of sustained criticism over the burden that business rates changes would place on many enterprises, Mr Hammond announced a three-point plan which he said would amount to an additional £435million support.

Any firm losing existing rate relief will be guaranteed that their bill will not rise by more than £50 a month next year. In addition, there will be a £1,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 and the creation of a £300million fund which will enable local authorities to offer discretional relief.

The Chancellor made clear that a fair tax system was one of the best ways to make Britain a top destination for businesses. He reiterated the commitment made by his predecessor, George Osborne, to bring the Corporation Tax rate down to 17 per cent by 2020. A reduction to 19 per cent will take effect from next month.

Following concerns about the current timetable, he confirmed that quarterly reporting would be delayed for small businesses for a year (at a cost of £280million).

Transport and infrastructure

Acknowledging that congestion was an issue in large parts of the country, Mr Hammond said that some £690million would be made available to tackle traffic problems in urban areas and get local networks moving more freely.

The Chancellor also announced a £270million investment to keep Britain at the forefront of research into biotechnology, robotic systems and driverless cars.

An additional £200million will be ploughed into projects to help secure private sector investment in full-fibre broadband networks and £16million put aside for a 5G mobile technology hub.

Personal tax

Controversially, it was revealed that National Insurance contributions will rise for the self-employed.

Under proposals, Class 4 NICs will increase from nine per cent to 10 per cent next April and to 11 per cent in 2019.

Trying to defend what will undoubtedly be a contentious move, the Chancellor said that the “unfair discrepancy” in contributions between different groups of workers could no longer be justified. Critics have suggested the move has broken with a commitment in the 2015 manifesto.

In more positive news, the personal allowance will rise to £11,500 – the seventh consecutive increase.

The Chancellor reiterated the Government’s previous commitment to increase the allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 by the end of the Parliament in 2020.

There was a boost for road users with confirmation that vehicle excise duty for hauliers and the HGV road user levy will both be frozen.

The Chancellor also announced there would be no change to the previous planned duties on alcohol and tobacco. There will, however, be a new minimum excise duty on cigarettes based on a £7.35 packet price.

Pensions and savings

In what is likely to be an unpopular move, Mr Hammond confirmed that the tax-free dividend allowance for shareholders would be cut from £5,000 to £2,000 as of April 2018.

The Treasury said that the change would “ensure that support for investors is more effectively targeted”, but critics fear it will could further hurt entrepreneurs.

Public spending

Mr Hammond had faced some pressure from his own MPs to plough more revenue into public services.

In an attempt to address criticism that institutions were buckling beneath the strain, the Chancellor confirmed an extra £260million for improving school buildings and funding for an additional 110 free schools (on top of the 500 previously announced). There has been some controversy, however, that some of these are set to be selective.

In an attempt to address the mounting crisis in social care, Mr Hammond announced there would be an extra £2billion in funding over the course of the next three years.  A Green Paper will be published later this year with a view to drawing up a long-term funding plan.

Tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning

The Chancellor said that a fair tax system required people to pay their dues and a series of measures to curb abuses of the system are expected to raise an additional £820million for the Treasury.

A raft of measures to tackle non-compliance were announced, including preventing businesses converting capital losses into trading losses, curbing abuse of foreign pension schemes, introducing UK VAT on roaming telecoms services and imposing new financial penalties for professionals who help facilitate a tax avoidance arrangement that is later defeated by HM Revenue & Customs.

Summary

In his closing remarks, Mr Hammond struck an optimistic tone. Whatever the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, he told MPs that the UK should be confident that our best days lie ahead of us.

It would be fair to say that the Budget was not strewn with giveaways, but the Chancellor did try and take the sting out of some of the main criticisms levelled at the Government in recent months – including its handling of business rates reform and the sluggish response to a mounting care crisis.

That said he is also likely to have stirred up fresh controversies and the decision to increase National Insurance for the self-employed is perhaps evidence that in the current climate tough choices will still have to be made.

To discuss how any of the above changes will affect you and your business, please contact McPhersons on 01424 730000 or email info@mcphersons.co.uk

 

Rye Station is holding a small yet nostalgic exhibition of train and station memorabilia from the 20th February until 2nd April 2017

Local resident Stuart Searle has loaned the exhibits to provoke memories for travellers along the Marshlink line.

Kevin Barry, the Community Rail Development Officer for the Marshlink line said :- “ Stuart has been collecting train and station memorabilia for many years, he used to be work along the Marshlink line and is very knowledgeable of its history. The hardest part of organizing this exhibition was not what to put on display but what to leave out! With much more available it means we can hold these exhibitions on a regular basis.”

Kevin Boorman, the chair of the Marshlink community rail partnership, added :- “Rye is a lovely, traditional station, and Stuart’s memorabilia is just perfect here, and very nostalgic. We’re very grateful to Stuart for lending us some of his collection, and to Kevin Barry for the work he has done to put this fantastic exhibition on.

“At 1200 on Monday 20th February, the Mayor of Rye will officially open the display and we are hoping Stuart will be able to attend, and talk about his collection.”

 

The annual May Day bikes came to Hastings and for enthusiasts it was a day to remember. The turnout was massive considering the weather wasn’t great but the crowds came out from all over to witness and celebrate motorcycle culture. Check out the pictures we took to see for yourself.

 

Passengers will face difficulty over Easter as there will be no trains running from Victoria to Sussex and Gatwick Airport.

There are plans for Network Rail to rebuild a critical junction at Battersea Park and as a result there will be no Gatwick Express or Southern trains from Victoria.

There will be services from Southern and Thameslink, which will run trains from London to the coast and Gatwick Airport. Trains will run from London Bridge and London Blackfriars.

Subject to improvement work further afield in Kent, Southeastern services from the station will run as normal.

Buses will replace trains on the Horsham line to Arundel in West Sussex. This is due to work to replace timbers on a railway bridge over the River Arun. Passengers are advised that this will add around one hour to their journey times on that route.Southern

Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, will be holding a summit to enable members of the public to hear from politicians and industry leaders about plans to improve and upgrade local transport services.

Roads Minister, Andrew Jones MP, will be this year’s keynote speaker and he will discuss investment in the area’s roads, including the A21. Attendees will also be updated by Highways England on the progress of A21 improvement works.

Recently, several constituents have contacted Amber about their experiences of service issues with Southern and Southeastern trains. This event will provide an opportunity to hear directly from and to ask questions to the Chief Executive Officer of GTR – the company which operates the Southern franchise – and the Managing Directors of both Southern and Southeastern.

In addition, a representative of Network Rail will discuss proposals to electrify the Marshlink for High Speed Rail, and the Managing Director of Stagecoach South East will set out plans to improve local bus services.

Amber commented: “With this summit, I am looking to build on the successes of past years which brought us major steps forward with campaigns to develop our area’s rail services. This event will add to the work of councils, businesses, MPs, transport campaigners and members of the public who have pushed for better infrastructure and transport provision in our area – from the major projects of dualling the A21 and campaigning for High Speed Rail, to the improvements which can be made to our everyday bus and train journeys.”

The summit which has been running for three years will be held at Sussex Coast College, Hastings on Friday 18 March 2016 and it will begin at 10:00am, with arrivals welcome from 9:30am and the summit’s conclusion by 12:00pm.

If you would like to attend, you can register online at www.amberrudd.co.uk,  email amber.rudd.mp@parliament.uk, or call 01424 716756.

The supermarket chain Morrisons was the first the cut diesel prices to below £1 a litre on Sunday and the other three big supermarkets also dropped prices on Monday.

Petrol, which is usually cheaper than diesel, was reduced below £1 a litre in the weeks before Christmas and these cuts show the further falls in the price of oil. Asda currently has 277 filling stations and said that it was the first supermarket to cut the price of petrol to below £1 a litre in November. Morrisons also stated this.

The price of oil is at its lowest for 11 years and Morrisons’ cuts were its cheapest since 2009. UK Brent crude oil is trading at just below $38, which is £26 per barrel. This means it lost 35% over the year.

About 75% of the price of UK fuel goes to the Treasury in duty and VAT and the remainder goes on refinery costs, distribution and the fuel retailers’ profit margins.

According to the motorists’ organisation, the forecourt price should have been cut earlier seeing as the wholesale price of diesel has been 2p lower than the wholesale price of petrol. This started a couple of weeks before Christmas and the organisation stated that more miles were driven in the UK on diesel than petrol.

Sainsbury’s is charging slightly more at 99.9p per litre whereas Morrisons, Asda and Tesco are charging 99.7p.