Tories and Lib Dems clash over progress towards reinstating Lewes-Uckfield services

Tories are '˜sitting on its hands' on proposals to reinstate rail services between Lewes and Uckfield, Lib Dems have suggested this week.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 3:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 4:44 pm
The current end of the line at Uckfield railway station

The Brighton Mainline 2 (BML2) has been mooted as a way of increasing capacity between the south coast and London and proposals have found backing from across the political spectrum in East Sussex.

But this week Lib Dems have attacked what they perceive as inaction from the Tories since last year’s general election following the progress secured by the former Lewes MP and ex-rail minister Norman Baker.

Baroness Randerson, the Lib Dems’ transport spokesperson, is set to question the Government on what action is planned between Lewes and Uckfield in the near future.

However Maria Caulfield, Lewes MP, said that ‘once again the Lib Dems have got it wrong’, and explained that she had continually lobbied ministers about the ermits of opening a second Brighton mainline to Lewes.

Rosalyn St. Pierre, a Lib Dem East Sussex county councillor for Ringmer and Lewes Bridge, said: “People in Sussex are forced to live with one of the worst performing railway networks in the country.”

She added: “The last budget saw significant funding promised for the Lewes-Uckfield line, funding that would go towards relieving pressure on our local railway networks. That money has now been diverted to other causes.

“Maria Caulfield [Lewes MP] needs to be honest with all the long suffering local commuters. Why are our railways still so overburdened, why are commuters being abandoned and where has the money gone?”

Rosalyn St. Pierre

Before her question, Baroness Jenny Randerson added: “As our train services get more crowded, more delayed, and more overburdened the Tories sit on their hands.

“The South East is suffering with one of the worst performing rail networks in the country and the Tory MPs in the region are not taking action.

“With Norman Baker in the Department for Transport we had more investment in the railways than at any point since Victorian times. He made progress towards improving the south east rail network and that work now risks being derailed.

“Commuters in the south east are sick and tired of being crammed into overcrowded, delayed trains. It is time the Government got back on track and fixed the problem.”

Rosalyn St. Pierre

But in response Mrs Caulfield said: “Once again the Lib Dems have got it wrong in assuming that I have taken little interest or action on the terrible rail service in the constituency. As far as I am concerned, there was no baton to pass on due to the lack of action by Norman Baker.

“A new feasibility study, started just after the general election, and as mentioned in last year’s budget, will be presenting its findings in the autumn.

“Additionally, during a meeting on Monday I, my neighbouring MPs and the Chancellor agreed the need for work to be undertaken on infrastructure in the South East.

“Only today I met with Govia Thameslink to convey the anger of residents, which is the latest in a number of what proved to be unconformable sessions for the rail company.

“The rail minister Claire Perry is meeting weekly with Govia Thameslink to discuss their performance and I am continuing to feed on ideas and the frustrations of residents.

“I am optimistic the feasibility study will be in favour of reopening the line and creating a much needed second mainline.

“Norman Baker accomplished little during his time as rail minister and I intend to take action as the people of the Lewes constituency have suffered from a poor train service for too long.

“Since taking office I have continually lobbied the Secretary of State and ministers about the merits of additional capacity through the opening of a second mainline to Lewes.”

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