The News


bringing important railway connections together



The anti-rail coalition between Green and Lib Dem councillors on both Wealden and Lewes District Councils is eagerly pushing ahead with backing attempts to prevent all-important mainline rail connections being restored between Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

The ‘Greenway’ proposal went public on 30 April, offering no prior consultation with fellow councillors, let alone the Wealden Line Campaign, leaving other councillors feeling justifiably aggrieved and angry at comments made by inward-looking Greens and Lib Dems at Wealden’s cabinet meeting on 8 May. Green Cllr Tysh (Maresfield) announced they were “Opening a Cuckoo Trail-style track for walking, cycling and running between Uckfield and Lewes which would use some of the land which formed the former railway line between these two towns.”

Eco-preaching how it fitted in with “Tackling climate emergency; countryside and biodiversity; active travel; sustainable transport and rural tourism”, he referred to the Planning Officers’ Report which says work could start next year with ‘delivery during 2026-7’. He told them “this would be way in advance of any other use for that track...... if any such other use for that track should come forward”, so he hoped they’d agree to spend £15,000 “to see whether we can do that very nice thing.”

Lib Dem Cllr Williams agreed, saying: “I welcome this proposal as a local Uckfield councillor – the idea of us looking at this feasibility is certainly a really exciting project.” Similarly, Lib Dem Cllr Owen-Williams (Crowborough Jarvis Brook) concurred “I think it’s a fantastic move and in line with our commitments to doing what we can with sustainable transport” – by which they mean propelling the area back 200 years.

Green Cllr Collins (Horam) positively enthused: “I think it’s a great idea. I think if it can be done in a way that doesn’t prevent any reopening of a light railway; a tramway; or even a full-scale heavy metal railway network between the two towns. I think it’s absolutely brilliant and all power to both councils’ elbows – let’s get it done.”

When discussed at Wealden’s full council meeting on 15 May, Independent Cllr Reed (Uckfield/Ridgewood) expressed her grievance at not even being consulted beforehand; berating them for the emails she’d had from angry and upset townsfolk who want the Uckfield line restored. Another Independent, Cllr White (Hellingly) spoke up for seeing the railway reopened, pointing out there was absolutely no similarity between the Cuckoo Trail which no one had seriously suggested reopening – unlike the Uckfield Line which the rail industry have repeatedly said should remain safeguarded. He called the bike path proposal “Sheer folly”.

But Green Cllr Collins thought he’d enlighten them, saying he’d lived in Copenhagen for two years, where he was “regularly overtaken by the matrons of that city with three kids on their cargo bikes and no electric power – sheer legs”. Relating his wife’s surprise at seeing only one track at Buxted station, he edified: “Double track is a tricky one; the line is single track south of Hever with passing loops – and that’s how they operate the line”. He reiterated: “So it’s entirely possible to run an efficient, modern railway service and ideally one fully-electrified without being double track end to end.” It’s a pity he didn’t have a word with regular commuters who would tell him how very constrained and inefficient it is too.

Dismissing Transport for the South East’s 2023 Plan (which proposes reintroducing main line operations between Brighton, Lewes, Tunbridge Wells and London around 2034) Green Cllr Tysh pooh-poohed this notion, asserting that was “Far off in the future. By contrast if this Greenway turns out to be feasible it can be done in 2 to 3 years so why we should wait for another forty years to do anything is again beyond my understanding.” Agreeing, Lib Dem Cllr Partridge (Crowborough North) who is also Leader of Wealden District Council concluded “It seems to be a complete no brainer provided it’s practical”. Yes, a ‘no’ brainer it certainly is.

Back in the real world, it comes as no surprise that another Lib Dem, Cllr Wilson (Crowborough South East), has since resigned, citing the green mould which he says has “descended into a mere conduit for Green Party policies”. We remember when ex-Lewes MP Norman Baker once famously declared there was “No need to vote Green if voting Liberal Democrat”. Well, we fully appreciate that now, Norman. We also recall when discussing BML2 with the Leader of the Conservative Group of Brighton & Hove City Council he told us “The Greens will have us all living back in the Dark Ages”. At that time we thought that a little harsh. Now we understand.

Meanwhile,‘Environmental expert Ben Dempsey is the Lib Dem candidate for the new constituency of East Grinstead and Uckfield’ says his General Election leaflet. This, too, mentions Greenway and states: “The initiative will also protect the old track bed for future rail use”. NO IT WILL NOT.

The intention is to lay an asphalted road on either the up or down main line formation – exactly as the document states: ‘Option 7d: Assess whether there is sufficient room within the old railway infrastructure to accommodate a 3m [10ft] wide Greenway along with a single-track railway to ensure the re-opening of the old Lewes to Uckfield railway line would not be precluded.’ This is not protecting the trackbed. Further on we see ‘Compulsory purchase’ gets a mention.

It is a fact that the equivalent-length A27 bike path between Firle-Polegate, which cost £75m, is used solely by recreational cyclists, a few skateboarders and dog-walkers and very occasionally horse-riders. It serves no public transport function whatsoever and neither would this Greenway.

‘Sussex Railways are the most congested in the UK’ says Network Rail. The South East is the most heavily-populated region and suffering unrelenting pressure from housing development and road-building. Our railways continue to struggle with insufficient capacity, while the Greens and the ever-vacillating Lib Dems show they will not campaign for the Uckfield line; their heads stuffed with whimsical notions of happy families going shopping on cargo bikes while ‘tackling climate change’ as the eco-fungus permeates all rationale. This contemptible pea-brained myopia exposes their patronising, clueless parochialism which cannot even comprehend regional rail journeys; for example between Sevenoaks and Brighton, Oxted and Seaford, Tonbridge and Falmer, etc, etc.

Equally, they are perfectly content at having a scandalously-degraded railway with trains running 46 miles from London yet stopping 7 miles short of the Sussex Coast network. That doesn’t bother them. Why should they care about those forced into driving these days, let alone our up-and-coming generations who are compelled to own a vehicle? According to Messrs Tysh, Collins and Williams, our twenty-somethings should just shut up and look forward to perhaps buying their Senior Railcards in forty years from now. So much for their ‘climate emergency’.....

These witless councillors do not realise they are being led by the nose by the shadowy and powerful road lobby in County Hall and elements in Tarmac for the South East who continue to perceive the Uckfield line as a direct threat to their massive £multi-billion road-building agenda. Not just in terms of transport funding, but the amount of road traffic it would remove from the highways. East Sussex County Council’s ‘Local Transport Plan 2024–2050’ incongruously states it wants the Uckfield line redoubled and electrified. This is utterly insincere and pure window-dressing. Greenway, if it gets the go ahead, will ensure the Uckfield line remains as it is today, a degraded, partially-singled line capable of only a maximum half-hourly service. Do they really think the rail industry will upgrade, redouble and electrify down to Uckfield, only to have a single line (if we’re lucky) for the last 7 miles towards Lewes?

What on earth must other UK regions think? We can be certain their leaders, especially in the north, will be laughing their heads off and cock-a-hoop, especially when they read the drivel our craven southern councillors are spouting. They’re already lining up to have their rail networks expanded, boosting their businesses and local economies, their tourism and not least the overall well-being for their electorate.

So we hope the Greens and Lib Dems feel proud of themselves in ensuring that capital spending will be heading north and away from the over-crowded, over-congested and struggling South East.