LETTER: Concentrate on the poor service

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My attention has been drawn to some gratuitously insulting comments Maria Caulfield made about me in your paper regarding rail travel. She refers in particular to the campaign to re-open the Lewes-Uckfield railway line.

She refers in particular to the campaign to re-open the Lewes-Uckfield railway line.

This is something I pursued for many years, often in the teeth of opposition from her Conservative colleagues.

Had the Tories been more supportive, the line would by now have been reopened.

I would also point out that the only reason that this matter is currently being re-examined at all is because I persuaded Danny Alexander, the then Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to include £100,000 for a further study in the 2014 Autumn Statement.

More generally, I note with dismay, not least as a commuter, that since the General Election, the rail service from Lewes to London has gone to pot, and punctuality has fallen through the floor. Now plans are progressing, seemingly without high level opposition, to all-but close the ticket offices in Lewes and Polegate, something I firmly stopped while a rail minister. I suppose Southern now think they can get away with it.

I also note the fiasco at Plumpton which led to the village being cut off for months. Just before the election I was very close to reaching an amicable arrangement with Network Rail through my contacts there that would have avoided any closure. I passed the ball to Maria in front of the goal but it seems she couldn’t get it in the back of the net.

I have retired from front-line politics and do not wish to re-engage but I am not going to stand by and have my record trashed in this inaccurate and gratuitous way. I would advise Maria that people in greenhouses should not throw stones and rather than throwing insults at me, she would be better turning her attention to the fast-deteriorating train service that local people are having to endure and that she seems powerless to do anything about.

Norman Baker

Lewes