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£20m bail-out for Southern 'beggars belief' says MP

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Credit: ITV News

An East Sussex MP has accused the government of 'ploughing subsidies into a failing private company' after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced £20m of government funding for Southern Rail.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, commented about the funding, which is part of a package of measures announced today to improve Southern's performance after months of cancellations and delays.

It’s astonishing that taxpayers’ money is set to be used to bail out a firm which lavishes its bosses with million pound wage packets. If the Government was serious about sorting the problems with Southern Rail then they would withdraw the damaging requirement for driver only trains, use this cash to employ the staff needed to run the railway and give long-suffering passengers the compensation they deserve.

It beggars belief that the Government is willing to plough subsidies into a failing private company but won’t countenance bringing the railways under democratic control through public ownership. Their ideological zealotry is getting in the way of common sense – and needlessly prolonging the pain for passengers.”

– Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion

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Government announces £20m fund to improve Southern Rail services

Credit: ITV News Meridian

After months of delays, strikes and misery for passengers, the government has announced a £20m fund to improve Southern Rail services.

The money - from Network Rail - will go towards hiring extra staff at key stations and the faster replacement of worn track. The Department for Transport has demanded rapid improvements and have created a new project Board to oversee the developments. It will be headed by former chief operating officer of Virgin Rail Group, Chris Gibb, who has more than 35 years experience of working in key leadership roles in the rail industry.

The Department for Transport say the key additional benefits of the £20m include:

  • £2m to be spent on more rapid response teams to fix faults more quickly, located close to known hotspots;
  • £2.5m to be spent on accelerated train maintenance;
  • £0.8m investment in extra signal supervisors to keep trains moving across the network;
  • £0.9m investment in a series of measures to minimise the impact of bridge strikes.

I want the Southern network to be run by a team of people who work together to make sure passengers get decent journeys and that problems are dealt with quickly. This review will suggest how we achieve a joined up approach to running the train and tracks and make things work better for the public.

We also need to get to grips with things that go wrong on this part of the network. That is why we are putting in place a £20m scheme to tackle the cause of breakdowns that too often cause frustrating and damaging delays on the network.

I now urge the industry, the train operating company and unions to work together to improve services for passengers.”

– Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

Gourmet plans to increase 'Garden of England' tourism

Chapel Down Winery Vine, Kent Credit: Visit Kent

Kent and Essex have been awarded a major government grant to attract more tourists to the counties.

Tourism teams have been working together to promote the areas' gardens and food producers in a new scheme called "Gardens and Gourmets". The money has been awarded by the Discover England Fund, set up to ensure England stays competitive in the rapidly growing tourism industry.

We are thrilled that our bid has been successful, and that we have the chance to start celebrating our and our partner regions’ outstanding international gardens, outdoor spaces, and local food and drink offers. Kent, The Garden of England, with its outstanding gardens, food and drink, inspires much of England’s identity, whilst our communities give our nation its heart and soul. England has more than 3,600 historic parks and gardens, and delicious local produce, and our goal is to inspire international visitors to go out and explore these regions by arming them with information that only locals would know."

– Sandra Matthews-Marsh MBE, Chief Executive, Visit Kent

Essex has many wonderful attractions including some remarkable gardens and outdoor spaces, and this will give us the opportunity to promote them whilst changing the perception of Essex. We look forward to working with partners within our own destination but also with other destinations from which I am sure we can learn a lot from.”

– Lisa Bone, Strategic Tourism Manager, Visit Essex

Tourism in Brighton 'never stronger' as Brexit pound increases staycations

Are you one of the five million Brits who have been holidaying 'at home' this weekend?

Experts say that with the falling value of the pound, following the EU referendum, more of us than ever are taking our vacations in the UK. And with the sun shining, that's led to a bumper Bank Holiday in Brighton.

Andy Dickenson reports, speaking to Max Leviston, general manager of the Sealife Centre, and Amy Gray of Visit Britain.

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Has Brexit affected house prices in our region?

Across our region we have some of the most expensive places to buy a home outside of London - and getting on the property ladder is a struggle.

But has Brexit - started to effect house prices? Since the referendum result there has been plenty of speculation that prices will start to fall.

Interviews with: Tom Clarkson, Walker & Waterer in Whiteley and Cuan Ryan, Butler Sherborn in Wantage

Anger that one in four homes at Brighton Marina sold to second-home owners and overseas buyers

There's been anger in Brighton after it was revealed around a quarter of new homes in its Marina development have been sold to second-home owners and overseas buyers.

The city now has the third highest levels of homelessness in the country, and campaigners say the development is doing nothing to solve Brighton's housing crisis - with residents priced out.

Andy Dickenson reports and speaks to Living Rent campaigner David Gibson, Andrew Goodall of Brunswick Developments, and Cllr Anne Meadows of Brighton and Hove City Council.

House prices keep rising in Surrey

House prices have shown a steep rise in Surrey Credit: ITV

The average price of a house in Surrey costs more than 15 times the average salary. According to Government statistics, in Guildford the average coat of a home in Guildford is more than £470,000.

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