Plans to close stations ‘are like a massive dose of overkill’

Cllr Stephen Catlin, Kevin Froude (Cooksbridge Area Rail Action Group), Cllr Graham Mayhew and Cllr Tamsyn d'Arienzo (Hamsey Parish Council)
Cllr Stephen Catlin, Kevin Froude (Cooksbridge Area Rail Action Group), Cllr Graham Mayhew and Cllr Tamsyn d'Arienzo (Hamsey Parish Council)

Plans to close Lewes Railway Station, and adajacent stations, on Bonfire Night were this week branded “ridiculous” and “overkill”.

Train services to the county town, Glynde, Cooksbridge, Falmer and Southease would cease at 5pm on November 5 and not resume until the following day, under the proposals.

Cllr Graham Mayhew, of Lewes Town Council, said: “I find it hard to understand the justification for closing Lewes and surrounding stations this year as Bonfire Night falls on a weekday when the numbers of spectators are always far smaller.

“I can understand not promoting the event, but preventing local commuters from getting home is pretty draconian and, I think, unnecessary.

“It is particularly hard on the residents of Cooksbridge, Falmer and Glynde, most of whom probably never even go to Lewes on Bonfire Night.

“The idea that large crowds of people would be likely to walk into Lewes from any of these stations is pretty ridiculous, really.

“Besides if anyone really wanted to attend they’d go to Brighton and get a taxi to drop them at the roadblocks on the edge of the town and do the same to get home.

“Having taken part in or watched Lewes Bonfire processions for some 60 years, it all seems like a massive dose of overkill to me. Actually I think crowds were often larger in the 1960s when there was a lot less for people to do!”

Cllr Mayhew and Cllr Stephen Catlin met with equally concerned members of Hamsey Parish Council, which covers Cooksbridge, on Wednesday.

Vice-Chair Robert Baughan said: “Hamsey Parish Council and Cooksbridge Area Rail Action Group (CARAG) are very concerned to note the proposal of the Tactical Co-ordination Group to suspend all rail services from Cooksbridge station from 5pm on Monday, November 5.

“This proposal seems wholly unjustified and will be a significant and unwelcome inconvenience to users of Cooksbridge station, with no mention of what alternative transport provision will be provided for rail customers intending to complete their return journeys started earlier that day.

“Equally concerning is the fact that Hamsey Parish Council was not even advised of this Tactical Co-ordination Group meeting or consulted in any way about these proposals that will have such a significant impact on our community.

“The position of Hamsey Parish Council and CARAG is that a full normal timetabled train service should be provided from Cooksbridge throughout the whole of November 5 and we shall be actively lobbying on behalf of users of Cooksbridge station to achieve this outcome.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Catlin has confirmed that the closure plans will be considered as “an urgent item” at the meeting of Lewes District Council’s Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, June 28 – and that parish councillors from the affected villages will be invited to attend. He had argued their non-involvement in drawing-up Bonfire Night plans was undemocratic.

The meeting, which is open to the public, begins at 2pm in the Ditchling Room at Southover House, Lewes.