The Compton report

Even after the Lewes-Uckfield line's fate was effectively sealed in August 1968, when the then transport minister Richard Marsh gave his consent to its closure, the strength of feeling on the issue was such that many local people simply refused to give up the fight. As can be seen elsewhere in this archive, one avenue open to them was to oppose moves to license the 'replacement' bus services.

After the closure had nevertheless taken place in the spring of 1969, there were still many who refused to give up. Ultimately their belief that the minister's decision was misguided would lead to the emergence of campaigning groups dedicated to the restoration of the link -- ancestors of today's Wealden Line Campaign.

But before this happened, they continued to work through whatever official channels seemed to offer some hope that the closure decision could be reviewed, pursuing what amounted to a campaign of bureaucratic guerrilla warfare. One such person was Mr S. Hackel, a resident of Barcombe, who in 1969 formally complained of the way that the closure had been handled and of its effects on his village.

The document that follows is the lengthy reply he received from Edmund Compton, the then Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. It should be noted that his remit was principally to assess whether the correct procedures had been followed rather than whether the closure decision itself was correct.

That issue had already been decided by the then transport watchdog, the Transport Users Consultative Committee. Following public hearings in April 1967, this statutory body had already ruled decisively against closure of any of Lewes - Hurst Green - Tunbridge Wells network.

Nonetheless, the report provides an interesting overview of the events leading up to the closure of the route -- and an insight into the perverse official thinking that first undermined the route's finances by cutting the Lewes - Uckfield link, and then found money with which to subsidise the resultant uneconomic stump. It also serves as a timely reminder that the 'right' procedure does not automatically lead to the right result.



C.351/L.

RESULTS REPORT

Complainant:       Mr S.Hackel,
                  River Lawn,
                      Barcombe Mills,
             Lewes,
              Sussex.

 

The Complaint
1. The complaint concerns the decision of the Ministry of Transport to consent to the withdrawal of railway passenger services between Lewes and Uckfield in Sussex, and the closure of Isfield and Barcombe Mills stations. This decision resulted from consideration of a proposal of the British Railways Board to withdraw all passenger services between Hurst Green and Lewes, Tunbridge Wells Central and Lewes, and Hurst Green and Tunbridge Wells West, with closure of the stations at Edenbridge Town, Hever, Cowden, Ashurst, Eridge, Crowborough and Jarvis Brook, Buxted, Uckfield, Isfield, Barcombe Mills, Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West. (I refer to these withdrawals and closures collectively as 'closures'.)

2. The points of complaint may be summarised as follows:-

1. After the Transport Users' Consultative Committee (TUCC) for the South East Area had advised against the Board's proposal on hardship grounds, the Minister decided to consent only to the closure of the line between Uckfield and Lewes. But until that time, no consideration had been given to a separate closure of this nature, and Mr. Hackel claims that the implications and rationale of such a closure are different from those relating to the original proposal considered by the Consultative Committee. Mr. Hackel complains that people in the Barcombe area have been denied an opportunity to make representations against the limited closure, and that the T.U.C.C. had no opportunity to assess the implications of that closure. In particular, if they had Known about the limited closure, the T.U.C.C. would have made proposals for additional bus services to replace the rail service, which they did not do in their original report as they advised the Ministry that the only way to overcome hardship to users of the line was to keep it open.

2. Closure has caused severe hardship in Barcombe and Barcombe Mills; these communities are more isolated than ever and communications with formerly accessible centres like Uckfield are now impracticable.

3. It was not until the Minister announced his decision that it became obvious that a cogent factor governing the closure of the Uckfield/Lewes section had been the need to breach the line to facilitate the building of the Lewes Relief Road

4. Because of the alleged weakness of a viaduct, British Rail withdrew services in February 1969 and provided an emergency bus service before the proper additional bus services had been introduced.

Statutory position and Jurisdiction
3. The responsibility for the day-to-day operation of railways, including the assessment of the desirability or otherwise of continuing to provide services on a particular Line, rests under the Transport Acts 1962 and 1968 with the British Railways Board. -But when the Board wish to withdraw services they must, under Section 54 of the 1962 Act, give the public advance notice of their plans in such a way as the Minister may direct. When they publish their firm proposals, they must do so in the manner laid down in Section 56(7) of the 1962 Act. Objections to such proposals may be made to the appropriate T.U.C.C. If objections are received by the T.U.C.C. the Board may not proceed with closure until the Committee have reported to the Minister on the hardship, if any, which they consider will be caused by the proposed closure and the Minister has given his consent to the proposal.

4. In addition to considering the recommendations of the T.U.C.C., the Minister obtains the views of the Regional Economic Planning Council and of those Government Departments which are concerned with the proposed closure. The Minister takes his decision in the light of those views and of any other representations made to him which appear to be relevant. The Transport Act 1982 does not prescribe what considerations other than hardship shall be taken into account by the Minister, although the 1968 Act, the relevant provisions of which came into force on 1st January 1969, requires him to have regard to any matters, including social or economic considerations which for the time being appear to him to be relevant. Before taking his final decision, he may, under the terms of Section 56 (10) of the 1962 Act, require the T.U.C.C. to make a further report.

5. Under Section 56 (11) of the 1962 Act (now superseded by Section 54 (5) of the 1968 Act) the Minister may make his consent subject to such conditions as he thinks fit and from time to time he may vary those conditions: the conditions may include a requirement to provide additional bus services to accommodate the displaced rail passengers. Such services must be licensed, as must all bus services, by the Traffic Commissioners for the area. Once the Minister has given his consent, he has no power to revoke it. The date of its implementation as a matter for the Railways Board to decide, provided that any additional services required as a condition of that consent have been licensed and are available immediately upon the closure taking place.

6. Section 39 of the 1968 Act provides that where the Minister is satisfied that rail passenger services are unremunerative but it is nevertheless desirable for social or economic reasons that they should continue for the time being, either in the same or in some modified form, and the Railways Board cannot reasonably be expected to provide them without assistance, he may, subject to Treasury consent, undertake to make grants to the Board in respect of the provision of such services for a period not exceeding 3 years a time.

7. The British Railways Board, the T.U.C.C. and the Traffic Commissioners are not authorities listed in schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act and their actions are, therefore, not subject to my jurisdiction.

Investigation
8. I have examined the voluminous papers in the Ministry's files, extending over a period of six years, relating to the Board's ,proposal to close the line from Hurst Green to Lewes and the construction of the Lewes Relief road. In paragraphs 9-27 below, I set down the relevant, events in sequence, as I have established them by my investigation, and in paragraphs 28-40 I set out my findings and conclusion on the individual complaints, using the headings "Complaint (1)" etc. to correspond with the item numbers of paragraph 2 above.

The Closure Proposal
9. The district served by the Hurst Green to Lewes line is rural and residential with virtually no industries. The total population in the area served by the station which the board proposed to close (see paragraph 1 above) was 32,000 in 1966, estimated to rise to 51,400 by 1981. The basic off-peal service was an hourly one on weekdays and a two-hourly one on Sundays from Oxted to Lewes; this was supplemented at rush hours, and there were occasional through trains from Victoria to Brighton via Hurst Green.

10. The Board gave public notice of the closure proposal under Section 54 of the 1962 Act in February 1966, in which month they also put detailed memoranda to the Ministry on the extent and usage of the rail service and the alternative services then available. Before agreeing to publication under Section 56, the then Minister asked for further departmental consideration of the planning factors involved, particularly those relating to population expansion. She took the decision to allow publication in September 1966, having, as I have seen, given full consideration to these factors. After publication, in February 1967, she received a memorandum on planning aspects of the closure from the East Sussex County Council. It pointed out that the increase in population envisaged for the area would occur mainly in Crowborough and Uckfield where the population would almost double by 1981, and that these two towns had been selected in the South East Study as the growth points for the expected population increase in the East Sussex part of the Outer Metropolitan Area.

11. The Board published the closure proposal in December 1966. The publication contained the following paragraph:

"In the event of a decision by the Minister requiring the continuance of a railway passenger service between Barcombe Mills and Lewes, it is proposed to discontinue all railway services over the section of the line between a point 425 yards north-east of the bridge carrying the line over the River Ouse at Hamsey and Lewes Station and divert these passenger services over a line to be constructed between the same point and a junction 365 yards south of Hamsey Level Crossing on the line between Cooksbridge and Lewes." (This possible route was subsequently known as the Hamsey Loop.)

The T.U.C.C. received almost 3,000 written objections to the proposal, a volume of objection which I note was described as exceptionally large. The T.U.C.C. held a public hearing of the objections in April 1967 and submitted their report to the minister in June 1967.

12. The T.U.C.C.'s conclusion (which I see was announced publicly at the time) was that the Board's proposal would cause very severe hardship to a large number of people an considerable hardship to a very much larger number. Travellers specifically mentioned by the T.U.C.C. as being subject to hardship were commuters to the London area between Uckfield and Edenbridge (inclusive), particularly those without cars; other daily travellers; and intermittent travellers to London, the South Coast or elsewhere via Tunbridge Wells. The T.U.C.C. made no mention of hardship to those making local rural journeys, but they thought the diversion of the line's commuters to other lines would cause overcrowding on those lines, particularly that from Tunbridge Wells. In the committee's opinion, hardship could only be avoided by retaining the lines, and they made no proposal for the provision of additional bus services. Their report, however, showed evidence of little commuting from to London from south of Uckfield, compared to that from Uckfield itself and stations to the north.

13. The controversy evoked by this proposed closure was followed by long and exhaustive consideration of its merits within the Ministry; the Minister's decision was not issued until 16th August 1968 but my investigation shows that throughout that period the department were by no means inactive. I note that after the T.U.C.C. submitted their report to the Minister in June 1967 the Ministry examined various alternatives to complete closure., in conjunction with the Railways Board. The Ministry and the Board examined the possibility of keeping the whole line open but making economies such as rationalising the service and operating on a single track. They then went on to examine other possible schemes: two of these involved the closure of the Lewes/Uckfield section (amongst others), whilst the remainder assumed the section would be kept open. The Ministry also discussed these schemes with other government departments and took account of their views. I have studies in some detail the financial savings and other considerations which were taken into account when these alternative schemes were examined.

14. The Ministry's tentative conclusion, following their reviews of possible alternative schemes, was that although complete closure would cause substantial inconvenience -- rather than outright hardship -- this was outweighed by the high cost of retaining the service, including the substantial capital cost of reconstructing the Hamsey Loop (see paragraph 11 above). I observe that early in 1968 they did consider one further alternative scheme and found it to be unworkable; but this would also have involved the closure of the Uckfield/Lewes section.

15. By the middle of 1968, however, it became necessary for the Ministry to review the whole position in the light of the Government's new policy for the organisation and financing of transport in the area served by London commuter services. This was announced in the White Paper Transport for London" (Cmmd. 3686), which was published in July 1968. The new policy was that the Ministry of Transport, the Greater London Council and the British Railways Board would jointly plan the London commuter area services as a network, operating individual elements with an eye to the wider pattern. No specific subsidy would be paid by the Ministry to the Board if a rail closure were refused: the loss would be taken into account in fixing the financial objectives and levels of service.

16. In consultation with the Board, the Ministry decided that the line as far south as, and including, Uckfield could be regarded as coming within the policy in the White paper, even though the cost of keeping that line in operation would high. It was agreed, however, that the closure of the section between Uckfield and Lewes should proceed: it would avoid the need to reconstruct the Hamsey Loop (see paras. 11 and 14 above) and this, besides economising in capital expenditure, would allow the programme for the Lewes Relief Road to go ahead without delay. The Railways Board then consulted the appropriate bus companies on the provision of additional bus services between Uckfield and Lewes, and I observe that their proposals in this respect were given careful consideration by the Ministry before agreement was reached. the Minister's formal decision was communicated to the board in a letter dated 16th August 1968.

17. The letter said that the Minister had noted the T.U.C.C.'s view that severe hardship would be caused to the holders of season tickets to the London area from stations between Edenbridge Town and Uckfield inclusive. He deferred his decision on this piece of line while he considered the case for a grant of social and economic grounds. The letter went on to say that the Minister had considered the use made of the section of the line between Uckfield and Lewes, and had found that hardship in the event of a withdrawal of rail services could be alleviated by the provision of certain additional bus services. The Minister had also taken into account the increased capital expenditure which would be necessary in connection with the Lewes Relief Road if rail services were retained between Uckfield and Lewes. He had therefore decided to give his consent to the withdrawal of all passenger services between Uckfield and Lewes, both exclusive, subject to conditions including the provision of specified additional bus services.

18. The Minister eventually decided to grant - aid the line from Uckfield to Hurst Green, and on 1st January 1969 he formally refused his consent to the closure.

Licensing of Additional Bus Services
19. Before the closure, bus services between Uckfield and Lewes were provided on Southdown Services 119 and 122. Both services called at Barcombe Lane End on the A.26 a mile fro Barcombe Mills Station, and service No.122 called also at Isfield Station. The letter of 16th August 1968 required additional services to provide connections with up and down trains at Uckfield at peak hours. Outside the peak hours there was an hourly service on each route, so timed as to provide half-hourly service between Uckfield and Lewes. There was an hourly train service to and from Uckfield, but service 119 left Uckfield for Lewes 2 minutes before the arrival of the down train and it was not possible for the bus company or the Railways Board to make suitable alterations to their respective timings.

20. The bus company's applications for licenses for the additional services were considered by the Traffic Commissioners at a hearing on 27th and 28th November 1968, subsequently adjourned until 21st January 1969. The Commissioners refused licenses because of (i) the lack of services to Barcombe Mills -- they considered that a mile walk to Barcombe Lane End, or to Barcombe Cross for the No.19 service, was unreasonable; (ii) the poor off-peak train/bus connections at Uckfield; and (iii) traffic congestion at peak times in Lewes and Tonbridge which had a serious effect on bus timings in Uckfield. The Ministry entered into detailed negotiations with the bus company and the Railways Board, as a result of which the Ministry varied the conditions of consent to closure on 25th March 1969 to meet the Commissioners' points. To meet the first objection service No.19 which runs west of the railway line from Newick to Lewes via Barcombe Cross and Cooksbridge, was required to be diverted from Barcombe Cross to Barcombe Mills at peak times and twice a week for shopping, together with an additional evening journey. To meet the second and third objections, a new limited stop service was required between Lewes and Uckfield was required, (No.22X) connecting the down trains at Uckfield and calling at Isfield and Barcombe Lane End. The Traffic Commissioners licensed the additional services on 31st March 1969, and the line was finally closed on 4th May 1969.

21. I note that in February 1970 the Ministry again varied the conditions of consent to closure with a fresh application from the bus company to the Traffic Commissioners to revise and re-time their Services 119 and 122 and provide a more permanent solution to the second and third objections of the Traffic Commissioners, thus obviating the need for the special limited stop service (No 22X). I understand that the Traffic Commissioners have not yet heard this application.

22. in connection with the alternative bus service to Barcombe, I find that complaints were made at the T.U.C.C. hearing and also direct to the Minister that Barcombe Lane, the road which connects Barcombe Mills Station with the bus stop on the A.26, was liable to flooding, rendering it impassable to pedestrians at such times. The Ministry received a report from their Divisional Road Engineer (D.R.E.) in October 1967 which said that flooding took place on 6-9 days a year, but this was challenged by a local resident through the constituency member of Parliament and found to be inaccurate. The Sussex River Authority eventually provided information which showed that Barcombe Lane was flooded directly by the River 0use on average of 13.5 days a year to a depth varying between 1 and 5 feet and also indirectly by surface water draining from high land, but the incidence of the latter was not known. The corrected figures were passed to the Member by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, and in coming to their decision to vary the conditions for consent to closure in March 1969 (see paragraph 20 above) the Ministry took into account the difficulties caused by flooding.

The Condition the Lewes Viaduct
23. I find that when in 1964 the Ministry were considering with their D.R.E. problems connected with the construction of the Lewes Relief Road (including the fact that it would have to cross the Lewes/Uckfield railway line) the Ministry were advised by the D.R.E. that high maintenance costs were expected on that stretch of line in the near future. In June 1965, the D.R.E. told the Ministry that the bridges and viaduct on the line between Barcombe Mills and Lewes were in need of costly repair. A speed restriction of 10 miles per hour was introduced on the viaduct just outside Lewes station in September 1967. In March 1968, the Railways Board told the Ministry that unless the section of line between Lewes and the start of the Hamsey Loop could be eliminated by the end of that year, either by building the Hamsey Loop or withdrawing the service, emergency action would be required to maintain the line in service because of the continued deterioration of certain of the structures.

24. On 1st November 1968, the Board issued a press notice saying they proposed to introduce their revised timetable following the closure of the Uckfield to Lewes line on 6th January 1969, provided that license for the alternative bus services were granted in time by the Traffic Commissioners. On 11th November 1968 the Board told the Ministry that that if the licenses were not granted, they would, for safety reasons, introduce the new timetable notwithstanding and run an emergency bus service between Uckfield and Lewes. Just before the Traffic Commissioners' hearing on 27/28th November 1968, the Board published the revised timetable showing the service between Lewes and Uckfield as withdrawn subject to the licensing of additional bus services. In fact, as I record in paragraph 20 above, the Commissioners adjourned the inquiry beyond 6th January 1969, and the decision to close the line on that date could not therefore be implemented. On 13th December 1968, the Board's engineers held a special investigation of the viaduct and as a result they announced to the public on 16th December that a shuttle service would run between Lewes and Uckfield on one line from 6th January, because of the state of the viaduct, and that the new timetable would otherwise apply as published. On 6th January 1969, the Southern Region of British Rail issued a press release announcing the Minister's decision on the Uckfield to Hurst Green section (see paragraph 18 above) and announcing that on the advice of engineers the Uckfield to Lewes shuttle service would cease on 23rd February, to be replaced by an emergency bus service. Evidence on the Ministry's file shows that the decision to close the viaduct was taken after a personal inspection by the Chief Civil Engineer of the Southern Region of British Railways.

25. The Traffic Commissioners criticised the Board's announcements in connection with the new timetables; in their opinion the announcements were premature and suggested that the Commissioners' decision could be taken for granted. They put their views on the subject to the Minister who consulted the Board and reached an agreement with them for the future handling of similar situations.

The Lewes Relief Road
26. The Lewes Relief Road was designed in three stages, but only stage 1 is relevant to my investigation. It provides a second crossing of the River Ouse to the north of Lewes Bridge and is intended to relieve severe traffic congestion in that part of Lewes. If the Lewes/Uckfield railway line had been kept open without a change of route, it would have been necessary to build a river bridge and a railway bridge for the relief road very close together. The East Sussex County Council were not in favour of this for reasons of design and amenity. Consequently the British Railways Board agreed to abandon that part of the railway to which I refer in paragraph 11 above, and reactivate the Hamsey Loop at the Council's expense should that prove necessary. Re-building the Hamsey Loop would have been cheaper than building a railway bridge. Although it was not in the event necessary to build the Hamsey Loop, the Board are stated to have Parliamentary power to do so and a potential rail connection between Lewes and Uckfield is thereby preserved.

27. As I have indicated in paragraph 23 above, the Ministry were discussing problems associated with this relief road as early as 1964. I find that in that year their officials concerned with the planning and construction of the road were aware of the possible closure of the railway, and that they have been in touch with the railways branch of the Ministry and with British Rail since that time. A public enquiry into a compulsory purchase order for stage 1 of the road was held in June 1965 and I note that one of the arguments advanced by members of the public who objected to the order was that an early decision to remove the railway line would result in an obvious economy in the construction of the road. The County Council said at the enquiry that they would not embark on a railway crossing until the future of the railway was determined. The Board's closure proposal in December 1966 stated that if the Minister required the continuation of passenger services, the Hamsey Loop would be built (see paragraph 11 above). As the foregoing paragraphs have shown, both the Ministry and the Board have been aware of the implications of the Relief Road scheme and the proposed railway closure for about six years.

Findings
In the light of the facts which I have set out in paragraphs 9-27 above, I make the following findings on the complaints set out in paragraph 2.

Complaint(1)
29. Mr. Hackel claims that, until the Minister decided to consent to the closure of the line between Uckfield and Lewes, no consideration had been given to a separate closure of this nature. My investigation clearly shows, however, that from an early stage in the Ministry's decision process consideration was being given to a number of possibilities for the lines between Hurst Green and Tunbridge Wells and Lewes, of which closure of the Lewes/Uckfield section was but one.

30. Mr. Hackel also maintains that because the implications and rationale of this limited closure were different from those relating to the original proposal considered by the T.U.C.C., the Committee should have been given the opportunity to consider the effects of the closure before the Minister gave his decision. It is true that the over-riding problem arising from the original proposal was one of London commuting and, to a lesser extent, commuting to Brighton and the south coast. The problem in the Barcombe area, on the other hand, appears to be predominantly one of communication between a rural community and the neighbouring country towns, since I have seen no evidence of commuting to London from Barcombe and there is an adequate bus service to Brighton. But the Minister is not required by law to obtain a further report from the T.U.C.C. (see section 56(10) of the Transport Act 1962) and as a result of my investigation I do not consider it unreasonable that he did not do so in the present case. The T.U.C.C.'s report on the Lewes/Hurst Green proposal, which was already before the Minister, made no finding that the closure of the line would cause hardship to those making local journeys (paragraph 12 above). Moreover, the Ministry themselves had considered the problem of local communications in great detail before the Minister consented to the closure of the Uckfield/Lewes section; and they examined closely proposals for additional bus services on which, as Mr. Hackel says, the T.U.C.C. had made no proposals of their own.

31. Against considerations of hardship, however, the Minister had to weigh financial and other considerations in arriving at his decision. One of these considerations, to which the Minister clearly attached importance, was that the closure of the line between Uckfield and Lewes would result in a substantial capital saving, mainly on the reconstruction of the Hamsey Loop (paras. 11 and 14 above) and would also allow the programme for the Lewes Relief Road to be speeded up. The Hamsey Loop, since it stemmed from a road programme, would have fallen as a charge upon local authority highway funds, but would, in turn, have attracted a Ministry grant of 75 per cent. For this reason I see no reason to question the department's conclusion that this was a saving which should be taken into account in considering the rail closure. In this connection I record that in November 1968 the Minister was asked by the Member of Parliament for a Sussex constituency if he had considered inviting local councils to pay for the Hamsey Loop. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary replied that the Minister had not done so but would have gone very carefully into such a suggestion if made by the councils themselves.

Complaint(2)
32. Mr. Hackel has not specified which "formerly accessible centres" he has in mind apart from Uckfield. But I have examined the problems of accessibility in relation to Uckfield and also Lewes, which are to a certain extent inter-related. These are the nearest communities of any size to Barcombe and Barcombe Mills.

33. As I record in paragraph 20 above, Southdown service No. 19 provides a 2-hourly service from Barcombe Cross to Lewes and it is diverted at certain times to Barcombe Mills. This service is admittedly less frequent than the previous rail service. But the particular problem of access, as I see it, arises when residents of Barcombe Mills wish to travel to Uckfield. Three routes are open to them. They can take the No.19 service to Lewes and change to one of the three frequent services to using the A.26 (Nos 199, 122 and 22X); they can travel by the No.19 service in the opposite direction as far as Newick and change there to the No.89 service to Uckfield; or they can walk to Barcombe Lane and board one of the three A.26 services at that point. Travelling to Uckfield via Lewes or Newick takes about one hour, compared with the nine minutes or so previously taken by the train from Barcombe Mills to Uckfield, and it is also more expensive. The third route involves a walk to Barcombe Lane End of about one mile from Barcombe Mills or about two miles from Barcombe Cross or Barcombe Village.

34. It is largely a matter of opinion whether the inconvenience resulting from these travelling arrangements can be said to amount to hardship for people travelling to and from the Barcombe area. What I have sought to establish by my investigation is whether the Minister was aware, and accepted, that the need for such arrangements would follow from his consent for the rail closure. Two aspects are relevant. The first is the degree of inconvenience caused in terms of extra time, distance and cost; the second is the number of people likely to be inconvenienced.

35. I am satisfied that the Minister was aware of all the relevant facts relating to journeys to and from Lewes. As I have mentioned, the No.19 bus service was less frequent, and took longer, than the train service. But this was offset to some extent by the fact that rail passengers from Barcombe Cross and Barcombe Village had to walk about a mile to and from the station. I have seen no specific comment in the Ministry's files on the reasonableness or otherwise of the alternative routes to or from Uckfield. But the Ministry were aware from the T.U.C.C. report and other sources that the main centres of population in the Barcombe area were about a mile to the west of the railway and not at Barcombe Mills. They also knew that the road from Barcombe Mills to the A.26 was liable to periodic flooding. They were aware, therefore, of the inconvenience that would be caused to people who wished to avoid the longer and more expensive routes via Lewes or Newick by joining or leaving the Uckfield buses at Barcombe Lane End. But, as the Ministry have pointed out during my investigation, the information provided by objectors to the T.U.C.C. did not indicate that there was any regular travel between Barcombe Mills station and Uckfield when the line was open, and my investigation has found no evidence to the contrary. I conclude, therefore, that when the Minister gave his consent to the closure he was aware of the degree of inconvenience that would be caused on journeys to or from Uckfield and was prepared to accept it, having regard to the very small number of people likely to be affected.

Complaint (3)
36. I find that the inter-relation of the Lewes Relief Road project and the Uckfield/Lewes railway line has been public knowledge since June 1965, and that the Ministry has had this inter-relation fully in view since early in 1964.

Complaint (4)
37. As I have said in paragraph 7 above, the British Railways Board is not an authority within my jurisdiction and I cannot therefore investigate their actions in relation to the condition of the Lewes viaduct. Mr. Hackel has not made a specific complaint against the Ministry of Transport in this respect. But since the condition of the viaduct was one of the factors taken into account when the proposed closure was being considered, I have set out in paragraphs 23-25 the sequence of events as they became known to the department. They show that the Board was concerned about the state of the viaduct long before the Uckfield/Lewes line was closed and that the viaduct was closed only after professional consideration at high level. I have seen no evidence of any maladministration by the department in this connection.

Conclusion
38. My investigation shows that the Ministry of Transport carried out a thorough examination of the various closure proposals to which I have referred in this report, and were aware of all the relevant facts when the Minister gave his consent for closure of the line between Uckfield and Lewes. I therefore do not question the merits of his decision.

39. Of the question of hardship, the Ministry have emphasised to me that if ex-rail passengers find in the light of experience that their needs are not being met, the Minister is prepared to examine evidence of need to see whether some further provision is required.

 

 

 

Edmund Compton (signed)

Parliamentary Commissioner
for Administration

 

9 April 1970.

 

 

June 2003