Plans to cease rail services on Bonfire Night are ‘draconian’

Cllr Stephen Catlin
Cllr Stephen Catlin

The battle to keep local railway stations open on Bonfire Night in Lewes is going right to the top.

Lewes District Association of Local Councils (LDALC) – representatives of towns and parishes in the district – met on Monday and agreed unanimously to write to the Secretary of State for Transport opposing wholesale closures.

Cllr Johnny Denis

Cllr Johnny Denis

The motion was sent to LDALC by Cllr Stephen Catlin and proposed and seconded by Cllrs Susan Murray and Johnny Denis.

The Tactical Co-ordination Group advising the district council on Bonfire Night public safety measures has recommended that train services cease at 5pm on November 5 and not resume until the first train due the following day. The stations affected by the proposal are Lewes, Glynde, Cooksbridge, Falmer and Southease.

Cllr Denis said he was surprised that representatives from the parish councils were not invited to participate and give their views at the tactical group’s meeting on Friday.

He said: “I am frustrated by the lack of interest in talking to anyone outside Lewes town about the inconvenience the current proposals for station closures have on rural communities on a normal work day.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Catlin has described the proposals as a “draconian measure”.

He said: Last year we were promised the cessation of service was a one-off. 2016 was affected by a rail strike.

“There were the same number of accidents and arrests, the reduction in the number of people attending did not affect that.

“In fact the same number of incidents over a lesser number of people means the percentage was up.

“Outlying parishes rely more on the train than the bus. This year November 5 is on a Monday when numbers would be down 50 per cent.

“It is a working day. The working person has a legitimate expectation, having left for work by train, to return the same way.”

Cllr Catlin is proposing a motion at Lewes Town Council’s meeting on June 21 that Mayor Cllr Janet Baah be authorised to write to the Secretary of State “in the strongest terms” opposing any move by the Tactical Co-ordination Group to cease the train services at 5pm and to order that a normal service be maintained.