Of all the rail closures in the UK, after the S&D, the Lewes-Uckfield was possibly the most insane. The line was a superb alternative for London-Brighton trains and should have been massively developed for this reason alone. It also serves a number of commuter towns.
This short stretch was closed in 1969 against huge opposition. It turned a through route into a branch line and I don't think it's stretching a point too much to state that the plan was to close the whole route, bit by bit.
With Peak Oil now upon us this line needs to be reopened NOW. The people of East Sussex have NEVER accepted this moronic closure, and never will, and since the day the line closed there have been calls for its reopening. The need now is greater than ever.
So get it open, double it throughout and electrify it, and start running some through trains from Brighton to London, and prepare for a freight boom.
And as for a road blocking a route 'forever' - forget it! This road will be empty within 20 years so the line can just be built across it. No one will care.
Labour Lords condemn rail-wrecking road by ‘greenest Government ever’
- Published on Tuesday, 08 May 2012 08:10
“The DfT must overrule this further attempt to block forever the extension of the line to Lewes” – Lord Berkeley
Following the Labour Lords’ Chief Whip’s denunciation of East Sussex County Council’s damaging road proposal at Uckfield, Lord Berkeley has roundly criticized David Cameron’s Government for not only its support for the Tory-led county council’s intended gyratory scheme, but also its disinterest in reopening the railway south of Uckfield.
Labour Peer, Lord Berkeley, CEng; MICE; FRSA; FCIT; Hon.FIMechE; Hon DSc(Btn); OBE; has had a distinguished career in civil engineering with firms such as Wimpey and culminating in ten years with Eurotunnel – undoubtedly the greatest UK transport project of the twentieth century. As he remarked to us: “I am a civil engineer who has built the odd road and railway!”
Writing in the latest (June) issue of The Railway Magazine, he draws attention to the Government’s encouragement to Network Rail to increase capacity by reopening lines where strategically important and asks – “So why is the Government apparently hell-bent on resisting calls to reopen the Lewes–Uckfield line?”
Lord Berkeley told the Wealden Line Campaign this week: “I have always suspected the business case for the reopening” and, like many of us, understands how it was gradually narrowed-down until it focused primarily upon usage between Lewes and Uckfield, thereby obviating its obvious regional function.
He added: “This completely fails to take into account not only the growth in demand from this part of Sussex to London, but also the fact that even now the existing line is operating at capacity. How otherwise will the network cope with the expected 20% increase in passenger traffic over ten years?”
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers, who is noticeably coming in for increasing criticism, admitted only recently that the Government has no long-term solution for the overloaded Brighton Line. Other than introducing a swingeing congestion charge for peak-hour travel, it has no idea how to expand capacity on busy routes from the south into London. This is an extremely important issue because rail projects take several years to complete and require leadership and strategic planning.
Turning to ESCC’s destructive road scheme, Lord Berkeley said in the Railway Magazine: “It appears that East Sussex County Council only believes in roads (the more the better) and its preferred option of cutting off forever any chance of reopening this line is by driving a new road at formation level through the middle of Uckfield, a plan that appears to be supported by the Tory-led Government, presumably on the basis that myopic localism by its car-loving residents takes precedence over the greener travel ambitions of the rest of the country and beyond.”
Two years ago David Cameron claimed he wanted the new coalition administration to be: “the greenest government ever” – but here we have transport policies belonging to the Beeching era and the car-crazy 1960s.
Lord Berkeley advised: “In any design of a new road across the rail formation at Uckfield, it is essential that space is left for a two-track railway and 12-car station, and that the road must bridge the route of the line so that, if and when the line is reinstated, no changes to the road will be necessary.”
As depicted here, Network Rail’s Engineering Study of 2008 shows how critical the station site remains to reopening the line to the Sussex Coast, not least because the present cramped, single-line terminus platform straddles the former Down Main Line.
Citing the Rail Minister’s backing for the road across Network Rail’s new station site and the trackbed, Lord Berkeley told us: “I cannot understand how Theresa Villiers can make these statements when it is clear that the line cannot be reopened with a decent station unless the County Council changes its ideas.”
Labour’s Chief Whip, Lord Bassam of Brighton, who has been similarly critical about ESCC, has said this week: “I believe Network Rail should be carrying out an urgent, detailed and independent assessment of BML2 – free from the influence of East Sussex County Council.”