LEWES MP Norman Baker has re-stated his enthusiastic support for the reinstatement of the Uckfield to Lewes and London rail link at a meeting with project manager Brian Hart. The MP who is also a transport minister, said: “I will do everything possible to move this forward.”
Norman acknowledged ‘a need for significant enhanced capacity between the South Coast and London’ and said he fully recognised this fact and will shortly look at ways it might be achieved.
Despite recent spending cuts, he considers it a Coalition achievement that major projects such as High Speed Two, Thamslink, Crossrail, further electrification and new train orders are still on course.
Following the recent publication of Sir Roy McNulty’s value for money review, he remains confident that significant savings could be made throughout the industry. He told the Wealden Line Campaign that he will argue for these to be channelled into furtner rail investment and a better deal for the fare payer.
He elaborated: “Part of the work we are undertaking into Network Rail will, I hope, drive costs down and mean that the reinstatement cost of a line such as Lewes Uckfield per mile would be less than has generally been quoted. That is certainly one of the intentions of the exercise.”
Turning to the wider focused Brighton Main Line 2 Project, Norman explained: “I do understand why you wish to advance this, but you will understand that my fear is that every single addition to the re-opening of Lewes–Uckfield will increase the price and therefore potentially make the scheme less affordable.
“I am also concerned that BML2 potentially will generate more opposition than Lewes–Uckfield, not least from the National Park. I also believe there is a real risk that in order to keep costs down, a line to Brighton might proceed, but the spur to Lewes would not. Obviously that would be unacceptable to my constituents”.
Brian Hart reassured Norman of the Campaign’s unwavering commitment to seeing Lewes-Uckfield restored to the national network. He reiterated his belief that BML2 actually made reopening south of Uckfield to Lewes, Brighton, Eastbourne, Seaford and Newhaven more useful, worthwhile and financially attractive. However he accepts that it’s best not to argue about individual goals but share common ground. Norman agreed it was vital to focus on working towards the shared objective of re-establishing the Uckfield Line’s connection to the South Coast.