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Record rise in rail passengers for our region

There has been a massive rise in passengers using trains in the region according to figures just out from the Rail Regulator.

The figures for the first three months of the financial year show a rise of almost 9% in the South East.

There were 267 million journeys in the period, the highest ever.

The Office of Rail Regulation said, "The main reason behind the increase is the growth in advance and season ticket travel across all operators within this sector."

Railway signal boxes Grade-II listed

Railway signal box Credit: PA Wire

Some of England's rarest and best-preserved railway signal boxes from across our region have been given Grade-II listed status.

The chosen railway boxes include those from Canterbury East, Maidstone, Wateringbury Eastbourne, and Rye,

The list was announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, who teamed up with Network Rail and English Heritage to seek out the best historic boxes.

In the 1940s, there were about 10,000 signal boxes but today there are fewer than 500 in use.

John Minnis, senior investigator at English Heritage, said:

"These are very special buildings, at one time in a familiar sight on our railway system. Today's listings will ensure that many of these highly distinctive designs are protected for years to come, providing a window into how railways were operated in the past."

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Railway volunteers celebrate cash boost

Swanage Railway Credit: PA

Plans to re-introduce a regular train service between two Dorset locations have been given a cash boost.

Swanage Railway volunteers are celebrating after winning a £1.47 million government grant to fund a regular train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham - a long-held ambition since the service was axed four decades ago.

Campaigners say the historic grant from the Coastal Communities Fund will give an important transport, tourism and employment boost to the Isle of Purbeck.

The grant has been awarded to the volunteer-run Swanage Railway Company - owned and controlled by the Swanage Railway Trust charity - with the first regular trains hoped to be running between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage within two years.

Peter Sills, Swanage Railway Company chairman, said: "We are elated at this tremendous and very historic news because the Swanage Railway has been campaigning to bring back regular trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham since 1972."

The grant was one of 20 awarded to seaside projects by the Coastal Communities Fund in a bid to boost jobs and bring new business opportunities to coastal areas.

Bluebell railway line announces network date

The Bluebell Railway line will connect to the UK network in March Credit: ITV Meridian

One of the South's most popular heritage lines has announced the date - it'll connect to the UK rail network, for the first time in half a century. The Bluebell Railway's two-mile extension into East Grinstead in Sussex will open on March 23rd.

It follows decades of tireless work and fund-raising by volunteers, who had to clear a massive rubbish dump in order to lay new tracks. The Bluebell attracts more than 170,000 visitors a year and has one of the largest collections of steam locomotives in the country.

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CPRE wants consultation on HS2

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has raised concerns over an an extension to the HS2 rail link.

Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner, CPRE said: “20 years ago, most people would never have believed rail use could double by 2012. "We can certainly welcome the Government's level of ambition.

“CPRE will be holding the Government to account against our five tests for sustainable high speed rail.

"In particular, CPRE county branches that are directly affected by the chosen route will want to consider whether there are better alternative routes or approaches to growing the rail network.

"We hope communities directly affected by phase 2 of HS2 can have greater opportunities to influence the proposals than has been the case for phase 1 [3].”

HS2 route will "create jobs"

Prime Minister David Cameron says HS2 will create 100,000 jobs.

He added: “Linking communities and businesses across the country and shrinking the distances between our greatest cities, High Speed Rail is an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration.

“We are in a global race and this Government’s decision to make High Speed Rail a reality is another example of the action we taking to equip Britain to compete and thrive in that race.

"High Speed Rail is a catalyst that will help to secure economic prosperity across Britain, rebalance our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs.”

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