In a letter to the Sussex Express published today (18th March 2016), Norman Baker, former Lib Dem MP for Lewes, has rebutted the attacks made on him by the Conservative MP for the area and has called for action to improve the local rail service.
"Dear Sussex Express
My attention has been drawn to some gratuitously insulting comments Maria Caulfield made about me in your paper regarding rail travel.
She refers in particular to the campaign to reopen the Lewes-Uckfield railway line. This is something I pursued for many years, often in the teeth of opposition from her Conservative colleagues. Had the Tories been more supportive, the line would by now have been reopened.
I would also point out that the only reason that this matter is currently being re-examined at all is because I persuaded Danny Alexander, then the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to include £100,000 for a further study in the 2014 Autumn Statement.
More generally, I note with dismay, not least as a commuter, that since the General Election, the rail service from Lewes to London has gone to pot, and punctuality has fallen through the floor. Now plans are progressing seemingly without high level opposition to all but close the ticket offices in Lewes and Polegate, something I firmly stopped while a rail minister. I suppose Southern now think they can get away with it.
I also note the fiasco at Plumpton which led to the village being cut off for months. Just before the election I was very close to reaching an amicable arrangement with Network Rail through my contacts there that would have avoided any closure. I passed the ball to Maria in front of the goal but it seems she couldn't get it in the back of the net.
I have retired from front-line politics and do not wish to re-engage but I am not going to stand by and have my record trashed in this inaccurate and gratuitous way. I would advise Maria that people in greenhouses should not throw stones and rather than throwing insults at me, she would be better turning her attention to the fast-deteriorating train service that local people are having to endure and that she seems powerless to do anything about.
Norman's rail achievements
When our local Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker's record of action on local rail issues included the following:
1. Persuaded the previous government to include £100,000 for a further study into re-opening the Uckfield to Lewes rail line.
2. Secured a new daily rush hour train from Lewes to London (now the 08.23). There was a gap previously between 07.54 and 09.00.
3. Secured an hourly stop throughout the day for Plumpton.
4. Helped save the Runaway cafe on Lewes station from being replaced by a chain.
5. Prevented the direct service to Ashford from Lewes and Polegate from being chopped.
6. Persuaded the then Railtrack to invest a couple of million pounds on Lewes station (there is a plaque on the wall to that effect)
7. Persuaded Southern to reduce off-peak journey times to Lewes and Polegate (took effect last year).
8. Secured season ticket price reductions of a third for people travelling between Eastbourne or Seaford/Newhaven and Lewes.
9. Won discounted travel for Seaford / Newhaven people when the present rolling stock (313s) was introduced.
10. Knocked heads together between Network Rail and East Sussex County Council to get the road bridge at Lewes station strengthened.
11.Launched the new disabled access at Glynde station.