Request not to close stations on Bonfire Night made by councillors

Lewes Bonfire 2017. Photo by Peter Cripps. SUS-170611-061529001
Lewes Bonfire 2017. Photo by Peter Cripps. SUS-170611-061529001

A request not to close railway stations during this year’s Lewes Bonfire celebrations has been issued by council leaders.

The town’s train services could stop at 5pm on Monday November 5 and not resume until the first train due the following day. The stations affected by the proposal would be Lewes, Glynde, Cooksbridge, Falmer and Southease.

The proposals have been branded ‘ridiculous’ and ‘overkill’.

At meeting of Lewes District Council’s cabinet on Monday (July 2), councillors formally requested public officials not to restrict rail travel into Lewes during the bonfire celebrations or else to make arrangements to open the station later in the evening.

The requests, put forward by the council’s scrutiny committee and agreed by cabinet members, were sent to the multi-agency group making public safety arrangements for the historic annual event.

The multi-agency group was expected to make a decision on the travel arrangements on Monday but has yet to announce its decision.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, scrutiny committee chairman Peter Gardiner said: “Scrutiny puts it to you that the train station should not be shut. It is an important local event of significance to Lewes and its environment, but we put it quite strongly that Lewes is not just the town but all the people around.

“Many people from my village and many people from all the villages around take part in the bonfire celebrations. So we thought it was foolish to cut off stations like Cooksbridge where, if the policy was implemented, there would be no chance of trains stopping from one morning to the next morning.”

“We felt it was particularly important that people who would be commuting should not be inconvenienced for the sake of the bonfire. There are lot of people commuting into Glynde, Cooksbridge and Falmer even, so we felt it important that trains continue to run.

“We recognise that Lewes Bonfire is not a safe event. If you were going to start doing anything of this sort, you wouldn’t do it in the way it is done in a town of tight streets with fireworks and barrels of flame being rolled down the streets. But it happens in other towns and Lewes is by far the biggest of its sort and it is a very important event for the town.”

Cllr Gardiner also put forward a request for the rail stations to reopen later in the evening if the closures went ahead and for alternative commuter routes to have increased carriage space to accommodate the extra demand.

Cabinet members agreed to forward the scrutiny committee’s recommendations to the multi-agency group in the form of a formal request.

Council leader Andy Smith said: “I like the recommendations, they seem very sensible. Unfortunately in this situation it isn’t the cabinet that makes the decision. I would like to continue your recommendations to the Tactical Co-ordination Group.

“This is the position we would like to see, but ultimately it is their decision.”

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