Lewes Uckfiels rail link: changing needs

THE letter from Peter Foot ignores the changing needs for a transport infrastructure in the west of this county that links the coast to West Kent and Surrey.

First he ignores the vulnerability of the current ageing rail network. I alerted Network Rail in November last year to crumbing culverts under the Eastbourne-Wivelsfield line at East Chiltington and many will remember when a culvert collapsed at Cooksbridge closing the line and causing disruption for weeks. We learn of a recent brick collapse at Balcombe Tunnel and wonder that so many important routes are totally dependent on such a fragile route over the viaduct. It is similar to three motorways suddenly converging on a B road.

Peter Foot assumes that most of the movement on the line would be only to London. This may not be true for the future.

Economic regeneration of the South East should result in more local employment. House building in both Lewes and Wealden Districts, (Crowborough, Uckfield and villages such as Buxted) plus economic development and employment opportunities in the region must be supported by a transport system that reduces expenditure on roads.

More than 80,000 vehicles per day use the Lewes by-pass and nearly 30,000 vehicles pass through Earwig Corner in Lewes heading north/south.

The amount of expenditure on a road system to support any regeneration of Newhaven to link it to routes beyond Beddingham will be enormous and will tear up land, though a disused track is already available for rail development. For example the cost of the East Sussex County Council project for the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road which was recently approved, will cost MORE per kilometre to build than the Lewes Uckfield railway.

But the Department of Transport continually throw up the argument of pressure on the existing routes on the approach to London. This appears to ignore the fact that trains already leave Uckfield to London, thus to start the journey at Lewes or Newhaven does NOT increase the number of trains at Croydon. Imaginative thinking might consider using Edenbridge as a terminus for an extra half hourly service as this station already provides an excellent connection to Victoria.

Representing a division of the County Council through which of the proposed route will travel I am very conscious of the rural unemployment caused by poor transport, the fact that young people without access to a private car find it so difficult to access work or further education. I am aware of the social isolation of my communities that cannot even access Lewes, let alone Brighton or Eastbourne because there is no public transport other than a poor bus service that does not operate in the evenings.

Mr Foot writes that the Department of Transport is prepared to re-visit consideration of the re-opening of the line “where evidence emerges of changing passenger demand.”

Can I suggest that all the drivers that are so frustrated at the delays at Earwig Corner, the people waiting for buses, students struggling to get to or are unable to get to college or those anxious to promote a low carbon environment either write directly to Mr Foot or contact me so I can get together a list of those of us that wish to see the line re-opened?

Rosalyn St Pierre

County Councillor Ringmer and Lewes Bridge

East Sussex County Council