A tiny parcel of land could hold the key to reinstatement of the Lewes to Uckfield railway line.
It centres on the site of the demolished Victorian station in Uckfield, significantly on the west side of the town.
Network Rail is keen to provide much-needed parking there – across the road from the new station where the railway currently terminates.
The scheme can only be achieved if Network Rail has the parcel of land transferred to it from the British Rail Board (Residuary), which is currently being wound-up.
However, the Department for Transport is currently proposing to move the majority of its assets to another government quango, London and Continental Railways, which would reserve the right to sell the land for commercial development in the future.
Lewes Town Councillor and rail link campaigner Matt Kent is demanding the land be safeguarded under Network Rail.
He sees it as the way forward in returning the line to Lewes.
He said: “To everyone who wants to see a meaningful regional railway strategy commitment by Network Rail, to help towards the future proofing and reinstatement of the Lewes to Uckfield line, I encourage people to write to the DfT to ensure this very important parcel of land facilitates the future of this well-needed rail reinstatement.”
Cllr Kent , who attends the Lewes to Uckfield Rail Parishes Group on behalf of Lewes Town Council, has been joined in his campaign by fellow councillors Ruth O’Keeffe and Stephen Catlin. Cllr Kent wants people to write to the Minister of State for Transport to request that he insures the important land transfer to Network Rail takes place.
Cllr Catlin said: “The importance for Lewesians is that this proposed parking scheme will potentially move Uckfield Railway Station to the Lewes side of Uckfield High Street, essentially bringing the start of the line’s reopening closer.”
Cllr O’Keeffe said: “I thoroughly welcome the fact that this practical step is being urged towards bringing back a valuable rail service.”
People who wish to urge the DfT to consider the transfer of the original Uckfield Station land to Network Rail, instead of London and Continental Railways, should write to The Rt Hon Simon Burns MP, Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR, before the end of November.
The Lewes to Uckfield line opened in October 1856. The initial service consisted of five trains each way on weekdays and three on Sundays.
end of the line
The link was closed in May 1969, and in the years since campaigners have demanded its return.
route to the capital
In its heyday the line offered the people of Lewes – and the coastal towns – an alternative route to London, Tunbridge Wells and the Sussex Weald.
A study in 2008 concluded that it would be “economically unviable” to re-open the line.