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Need for Uckfield-Lewes

The first step in defining the transport needs of Sussex and in particular the Wealden area is to understand the socio-economic factors of the area, ie where people live, work and play, and how well they are doing:
  • In the South East, Brighton is second only to London as an employment centre, and does not have enough housing to accommodate all its workforce
  • The Wealden area is comparatively prosperous, with a high level of people in professional occupations, but the East Sussex Economic Development Strategy points out that these are rural communities suffering from a decline in land-based and public sector employment, and isolation due to lack of public transport and high cost of private transport
  • Hastings, Eastbourne and Newhaven are home to some of the most deprived communities in England; regeneration is required in these areas. New waterside housing and retail development are planned at Newhaven.
  • A substantial number of new homes are planned for East Sussex, in particular at Uckfeld and Hailsham
  • There is a high level of commuting, in particular towards Brighton, the London/Brighton corridor (Gatwick/Crawley/Croydon), the M25 and central London.
  • Historically, before closure of the Uckfield-Lewes line, travel southward from the Weald exceeded travel northward (although southward revenue was lower) despite a slow and infrequent service
There are also national and global economic factors to consider:
  • Fuel prices are increasing, and this trend will continue and even accelerate as global demand increases but sources of oil run out
  • UK borrowing, both public and private, has reached a level which is not sustainable long term, and a reduction in the level of borrowing can only be achieved by an increase in UK competitiveness, either through increased productivity or a reduction in the real value of earnings. The latter is currently happening: pay levels are generally static and any increases are less than price inflation.
  • These two factors will squeeze many households; those with 2 cars will consider reducing to one car, leaving one partner to rely on public transport
  • The high cost of motor insurance, especially for new drivers, is delaying the age at which many young people start driving, again increasing the demand for public transport
The present provision for travel has the following limitations:

  • Rail services from the South Coast to London are running at capacity which is limited by the infrastructure, and so are slow, crowded and not sufficiently reliable
  • Aside from the A27, there are no dual carriageway roads across East Sussex
  • Public transport from the Weald to the South Coast is only available by bus services, many of which finish early
Analysis of these factors and limitations defines the following rail transport needs for the area:
  • Additional capacity and journey options to support increasing demand for public transport, without the need for additional taxpayer support
  • Improved journey experience for travel from the Weald to London
  • Direct service from the Weald to Lewes and Brighton
  • Additional capacity for South Coast to London services
  • Services to support new traffic flows, eg London to Newhaven and Gatwick to Newhaven to enable waterside residents to commute
  • Closer, more reliable connections between services to make theoretical journey options more practical, eg Uckfield to Gatwick/Crawley
Our plan is to work with stakeholders to define and seek funding for a solution which will address as many of these needs as practicable.

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