I was very disappointed, but not surprised to see Maria Caulfield’s support for a railway line that would in essence bypass Lewes.
If it were to go ahead, the grandiose plans of tunnelling through the Downs and then bridging the A27 by an important aquifer would be so costly that it would exclude any ‘spur’ to Lewes.
I will await the response of the National Park to a proposal.
It seems astonishing that she and her neighbour Simon Kirby MP lobbied the Minister Chris Grayling for a line that would only serve to relieve the stress of Brighton-based commuters while neglecting those of her constituents in Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven.
As the ESCC county councillor for the division through which most of the line will run, I have been closely involved with any potential opportunity to develop a sustainable transport system. At the time I was first elected the reports from Network Rail suggested costs at that time to rebuild about 8 miles of line was judged to be just over half of the eventual costs of the infamous Bexhill to Hastings Link road which is all of 3.5 miles in length. Throughout this time the cost benefit ratio has changed. Many will recall when the Uckfield line was a very poor relation of the network, with two or four ancient carriage trains chugging slowly across the Ashdown Forest.
Travel now on the ten carriage highly improved line, now among the most profitable in the area. Although I attended briefings at Westminster alongside Norman Bake MP and the ESCC transport officers over several years, we still await the publication, produced last year at great cost to the taxpayers.
In that report we were promised a calculation of how the impact of all the housing development would contribute and be a beneficiary of the line reopened to Lewes. I have seen that housing development in this area and in Wealden has put unbearable pressure on the A26 and the surrounding roads.
In my view Maria Caulfield and her team have not looked to this. I am sure residents in Seaford and Newhaven are also disappointed that a line which would stimulate the port and give great access into Wealden will be sacrificed.It also seems a real pity that Maria Caulfield did not have the courtesy to contact me nor invite me or ESCC officers to any discussions that will possibly disrupt the area I serve.
Rosalyn St Pierre
Ringmer and Lewes Bridge Division
East Sussex County Council