Wealden Line Campaign

Friday 18 January 2019

1990 to 1993 - The Portillo Years


Destruction of Down Line

Following approval by Rail Minister Michael Portillo, BR rationalizes the Uckfield line by reducing it to single track with long passing loops. Route henceforth restricted to maximum half-hourly service. Plans announced to relocate Uckfield station east of High Street to abolish High Street level crossing. Despite its fleet of ageing diesel units, BR “forced by budgetary considerations” defers electrification until 1995 “at the earliest”.

Following Clapham and Purley disasters BR claims safety is their top priority.

Renewed proposals by developer to build a DIY store on Uckfield station site.

WLC becomes a publicly-supported body open to subscription and issues its first newsletter called ‘Wealden Line News’.

Chris Green says opportunity to reopen line should not be lost.

BR rationalizes the Uckfield line in 1990. A single platform will be built on the abandoned down main line shown here.

BR closes Uckfield station and level crossing. Plans for new £500k station scrapped and ‘temporary’ portacabin as ticket office provided instead on single platform.

Uckfield Portacabin Station

Uckfield commuters face New Year fare increase of almost 9% (from £1,764 to £1,920) due to “investment in the line” says BR. WLC disagrees, saying £1.5m was spent reducing the line and its capacity to save on properly maintaining former double-track.

ESCC is allocated £54m by DfT to spend on roads and approves a number of bypasses and road straightening works costing millions.

WLC criticises worsening conditions on Brighton and Tonbridge lines at peak periods where railheading causes overcrowding and says Uckfield line is “wasting away, under-used, under-valued and under invested”.

BR says Uckfield line is a good example of how a single-line railway could operate. But it would take second place to Hastings-Ashford electrification – and this had been put back four years.

A third of the Uckfield line’s peak London services are cut back to save running costs.

Demolition of railway alignment through Groombridge as Wealden District Council permits new housing estate to be built across trackbed.

WLC holds its first AGM.

‘Wealden Line News’ changes name to become ‘Missing Link’.

Conservative Transport Minister Roger Freeman visits Lewes station to meet Sussex MPs and discuss concerns over rail services, afterwards going by car to Uckfield and returning to London by train. Wealden MP suggests privatising may be the answer to the line’s future.


Sponsored Cycle Ride
The Railway Development Society holds a sponsored cycle ride between Uckfield and Lewes in aid of WLC funds, whilst the WLC holds its first annual walk between the two towns during August following the route of the railway.

A Do-it-all superstore planned for Uckfield station site is abandoned due to the recession.

A Hamsey resident accuses WLC of “flogging a dead horse – albeit an iron one”.

Chris Green’s successor at NSE says he shares the view over the potential usefulness of the Lewes link but cannot be any more optimistic.

John Major’s Government says Uckfield line “safe” over fears privatisation could mean it closes.

Cllr Norman Baker criticizes ESCC for spending £1.5m on A26 “bend straightening” near Lewes, rather than contributing to reopening adjacent railway.

Wealden MP calls on ESCC to invest in Lewes link and hopes privatization will “unlock funds for modernisation and extension of the Uckfield line”.

Among growing membership, a Coulsdon member writes: “Good luck! I wonder – will the Bluebell get to East Grinstead before you get to Lewes?”

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