Norman Baker launched a Liberal Democrat plan for massive rail expansion today. He said, “High speed rail is hugely important, but it is only part of the 21st century rail network Britain needs. Our plans will reopen thousands of miles of track across the country and make our railway great again... The Liberal Democrats will transform the railways with the biggest expansion since the Victorian age."
The plan is to create a Rail Expansion Fund of nearly £3bn from which councils and transport authorities can bid for money to pay for rail improvement and expansion projects. The reaction from the motoring lobby was immediate and predictable: according to the BBC "the RAC Foundation said it would be a waste of taxpayers' money when only 7% of UK journeys were made by train, compared to 90% by car". Maybe more routes and cheaper fares will make a difference to that proportion.
Some of the plans include, again from the BBC, "the electrification of lines from Manchester to Liverpool, Leeds and Preston; from Birmingham to Bristol and Basingstoke; and between Leeds and York. New or reopened stations could be funded in Ilkeston, Kidlington, Wantage, Corsham, Tavistock, Middlewich, Ashington, Blyth, Washington and Skelmersdale. New lines could link Southport with Preston, Bournemouth with Ringwood and the Midlands main line with the Birmingham-Derby route. And track could be reopened between Exeter and Okehampton; Tavistock and Plymouth; Penrith and Keswick; and Galashiels and Carlisle."
No sign of the Lewes to Uckfield line in there, but maybe, maybe...
Update 6th April
The plan does include reopening the Lewes Uckfield railway. Norman says: "The reopening of the Lewes - Uckfield line is something I have campaigned for locally for over twenty years. It is vitally needed, not just to link the two towns again, but also as a key building block in providing an alternative to the heavily congested Brighton main line."