LETTER: Dismayed by personal attack

I am dismayed by the unwarranted personal attacks on Maria Caulfield over her earnest support for the so-called ‘grandiose’ Brighton Main Line 2 project (‘Disappointed by Maria’s support’ – letters February 10).

Following numerous fruitless attempts to reopen the Uckfield – Lewes line, the Wealden Line Campaign was launched in 1986 and remains utterly determined to see the Lewes link restored. In the ensuing 22 years every reopening assessment foundered because the Uckfield line could no longer operate directly into Brighton, as it did until 1969. As Network Rail’s recent 2008 study (heavily influenced by a hostile ESCC) adamantly concluded, the transport role and economic value of a Lewes-only connection remains too limited.

It took a year to develop BML2, testing its feasibility and strategic value prior to unveiling in 2010. Shortly before Norman Baker’s election to Government as a Transport Minister, he viewed BML2 where it was explained how Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven and Eastbourne would acquire a new line to London on the back of a more worthwhile scheme. Although he took a personal dislike to it, interest in BML2 snowballed and we were approached to give lengthy presentations to Network Rail at Waterloo, Go-Ahead/Southern at Croydon, as well as many regional authorities. On this issue I have nothing but praise for Maria Caulfield who understands the logic and appreciates the enormous economic, social and environmentally-sustainable benefits BML2 will certainly bring to Lewes and the entire Sussex Coast.

Similarly, BML2’s additional route, via a new South Downs tunnel, will provide large and growing towns such as Uckfield, Crowborough, Tunbridge Wells, Edenbridge, Oxted, etc, fast and direct access to Falmer (University of Sussex and AMEX stadium) and the ever-popular city of Brighton & Hove. Why the Lib Dems continue to oppose this irrefutable boon to Wealden residents is beyond all comprehension, not to mention denying Brighton a sorely-needed second direct main line to London. The increase in new services achievable with BML2 could not all pass through Lewes. This would be undesirable, unpopular and hugely disruptive. The resulting conflicting train movements and chaos would preclude introducing additional services from Seaford, Newhaven and Eastbourne operating to London via BML2.

Before her election as Lewes MP, Maria Caulfield was unjustly maligned by the Rt Hon Norman Baker for supporting BML2. He maintained his falsehood that it would “bypass Lewes” and followed this with an equally spurious claim of “a massive tunnel under the town with all the disruption that would cause”. By contrast, Maria showed exemplary courage in the face of his churlish attacks and fairly won her seat in Parliament. Unlike her predecessor, she is committed to winning high-quality long-term investment in our overburdened rail network and we greatly appreciate her efforts in securing BML2 for Sussex.

Brian Hart

Project Manager, Brighton Main Line 2

Framfield Road