Better Rail in Sussex Needed Today – Letter to Sussex Express (11/5/12)
With reference to Peter Foot’s letter (dated 4th May, Sussex Express), I felt compelled to highlight how disconcerting his response was at many levels. The ‘Rail Operations Advisor’ from the Department for Transport worryingly confirmed that the proposed East Sussex County Council ‘Uckfield Traffic Improvement Scheme’ (namely, Option D Phase 1), makes the opening of the Uckfield to Lewes Railway ‘easier’. In fact quite the reverse. It has recently transpired that this most contentious proposal does in fact not work, as it has been apparently stated from ESCC’s Transport Development Control Manager that, ’It is not possible to bridge the river and the extended railway using the (proposed road) alignment in Phase 1 (Option D).’ (Source: The Wealden Line Campaign).
Mr. Foot then decides to cloud the issue of the Uckfield to Lewes Railway reopening by discussing the ‘imaginative ways’ of extending the scope of the rail extension, with the aims of the Brighton Main Line 2 (www.BML2.co.uk
) proposal. It is a known fact that the urgent reopening of this disused alignment is just a small, but important part of finding a comprehensive, value for money regional rail strategy that sadly Network Rail does not seem to have (apart from pricing commuters back into their cars). The DfT should be grateful for the unbridled passion and expertise that BML2 Project Manager (Brian Hart) has for promoting national rail in Sussex and the South East Region, as there is very little else on the table at the moment. We should be asking ourselves how does the region travel after the few additional carriages and the existing Brighton Main Line come to capacity within the next decade?
Alternative Rail Links from Lewes are Possible
There are very many good examples where influential councils such as Staffordshire County Council are taking a more proactive countrywide strategy to encourage the opening of preserved and out-of-use lines such as Stockton Brook and Churnet Valley. Given ESCC’s recent priorities of wanting to build a 3-mile bypass for at least £100 million+, and a road over the disused Uckfield to Lewes Rail alignment, I think we all know where ESCC’s priorities are when it comes to improving public transport.
We should also be asking why our local MP, Norman Baker (who we would expect to have his finger on the pulse of such transport issues) has been so tight lipped on his favourite subject matter in his own back yard? Questions such as, why are passengers travelling to Buxted to commute south to Uckfield to then commute north to London so they can get a seat? Why hasn’t the re-doubling and electrification of the existing Uckfield Line been considered for Network Rail Control Period 5 (2014-19)? Why is the Department of Transport sticking their fingers in their ears to the needs of rail passengers who pay through the nose for a rail system that is on the brink? should be being answered with great urgency. Norman, it’s over to you.
Matt Kent, Lewes