September 2021

 BUS STATION THREATENED

Despite its lack of maintenance, the Lewes bus station is a remarkable piece of architecture.  In a very small space it managed to include a bus garage, sheltered bus stands, a café, waiting room, kiosk, facilities for bus crew and offices.  It is a fine example of the architecture of the 1950s. Stagecoach sold it in 2006 to Rees Elliott (Eastgate)  for £1.8 million. Travelman suggests that this is not a price you pay for something you intend to keep as a bus station.

A number of attempts to develop the station as housing have been made over the years but they have not go anywhere.  However a new proposal is gaining traction.  It takes the form of a pre-application enquiry, where the applicant tests the water without going to the expense of making a full application.

The pre-application was put in by the Generator Group who may be acting as agents for the owner.  There are a number of organisations who specialise in getting planning permission for clients, using their knowledge of the ins and outs of the planning system.

Thrown out?

On past form you might have expected a proposal to get rid of the bus station to be thrown out immediately.  But this seems not to be the case.  The planning documents record a meeting on 15th July at which Kelly Porter – Major Projects Lead at the South Downs National Park Authority said that “officers are supportive of the principle of development. Consideration needs to be given to the relocation of the bus stops.” This does not suggest an understanding of the need for buses to stand over between trips.

She also confirmed that confirmed that “the Council is not resisting the development of the site and would like to work with the project team to move the design forward so that it can be supported at the application stage”.  This seems to be a reference to Lewes District Council (LDC) although LDC councillor Adrian Ross suggests that it is in fact a reference to the National Park Authority, which has been called the council by mistake..

For some reason no representative of Lewes District Council was present at the meeting.   There seems to be no attempt in the documents to involve LDC

In another document consultant Paul Burgess says “It is the applicants intention to present a solution for reprovision of the bus stops and the project team is reviewing
this further (including discussions with ESCC buses)”
  But this appears to have been an afterthought.  No details are given.

No comment

The South Downs National Park Authority has declined to comment to Travel Log on the proposals.

It appears to Travelman that the developers, the National Park, and East Sussex County Council want to exclude Lewes Council from discussions because they might object.   He hopes the District Council will lead the opposition.

Travelman believes that the County does not subsidise any bus services using the bus station but it may be paying the fees charged by the owner for use of the bus station, which would give it an incentive to see the station abandoned.  Let’s hope our county council members, Wendy Maples and Johnny Denis are able to make an intervention.

It is hard to see how anyone who knows and cares about bus services could support the proposals to demolish the bus station.  All the country buses run by Compass bus start from the bus station. They need to lay over between journeys  Some 28 services to Brighton start there.  Even the 29 bus from Tunbridge Wells lays over for some minutes.  Can you imagine all this lot queued up at the bus stop outside Waitrose?

Bus services are run to tight schedules and the bus station is often the only place bus crew have time to go to the toilet and refresh themselves.

Bus passengers have extensive covered areas to wait, , with seating, and the potential for an indoor waiting room.  There is also a café where they can wait and see when their bus is coming in.  How is this going to be provided by street bus stops?

The position of the bus station is integrated into the key shopping area.

Let’s hope the bus companies speak up loud and clear.

Travelman thinks decisions are being made by people who don’t use buses and don’t care about buses.  The National Park has not responded to a request to send details of its strategy for encouraging sustainable travel in the National Park, however its web site has a Sustainable tourism strategy although this, perhaps significantly, ran out in 2020.  Here are some excerpts:

Objective 5
To encourage change in travel behaviour of visitors accessing the National Park.
Existing visitors will be incentivised to switch from use of private vehicles to public transport by means of linked travel and visitor attraction/experience tickets. This will be supported by better signposting and promoting the accessibility of key areas of the National Park by cycling, walking and using public transport from transport hubs and gateways. New visitors, including these without cars, will be encouraged to access the South Downs through sustainable transport options where
reasonable. All SDNPA tourism information will include public transport and sustainable access information.

Enabling Sustainable Travel
Working with partners in Local Government and Transport Operators to promote a modal shift from the use of the private car to public transport and more sustainable forms of personal transport.

Area-Based Priorities
11. Lewes: A key access gateway and hub serving the east of the National Park; warrants increased SDNP profile at the railway station, improved bus station, and improved links from public transport to bicycle/walking facilities and the local long distance paths. (Travelman’s emphasis)

Plainly these fine words mean nothing when actual decisions are taken.

Here are the members of the National Park planning committee. Guidance about what you can and cannot do when lobbying them is on the same page.

We need a campaign and Travelman hopes Lewes District and Town Councils will lead it.

BUS TIME CHANGES

Compass Bus services changed from  31st August.  Main changes are that school journeys will be open to the public, the 7.18 Newhaven to Lewes bus is withdrawn, The Saturday services to Barcombe and Plumpton are renumbered, and an afternoon service round the Nevill is being withdrawn, being replaced by the 14.45 121 bus to Newick going round the estate if passengers on board request it.  There are also minor timing changes. Full timetables here  It really is important to use your rural and suburban bus services if you want them to keep going

Brighton Buses change their timetable from 5th September.  The night service 25 has increased frequency for those of you out late in Brighton who are prepared to walk the 4 miles from Falmer to Brighton.

But there are no changed to the 28 and 29 services.  This means that there will continue to be a service every ten minutes to Brighton during the day Monday to Saturday, a half hourly service to Ringmer and also to Uckfield, but only an hourly service to Tunbridge Wells.  The cut in the services to Tunbridge Wells looks like it may be permanent.

TRAIN TIME CHANGES

From the 5th September some train times are changed

  • There is no reinstatement of the Lewes to Brighton shuttles so the frequency off peak will continue to have ten minute gaps sometimes and twenty minute gaps at others. The shuttles between Brighton and Hove connecting with trains from London to the West Coastway are reduced.
  • Trains from Brighton to Hastings via Lewes will only be hourly. There are also trains from London to Hastings via Lewes but the services are bunched up, meaning that there are typically trains at 47 and 57 past the hour to Hastings and Eastbourne, but then a wait of 50 minutes.
  • Train services to London will only run at hourly frequencies in some off peak times.Use National Rail Enquiries to check whether or not it is worth travelling via Brighton. The fares are the same.
  • Uckfield to London services are only every two hours during the day outside peak times.
  • Seaford trains continue to be half hourly.

These changes are scheduled to run up to December.  We are waiting for Govia Thameslink, which runs the trains, to put out proposals for the service after that.  Some companies have already done this and are proposing substantial cuts in services.

HOW TO IMPROVE BUS SERVICES

The government has put out some fine words about improving bus services after the pandemic and County Councils are expected to come up with proposals.

To this end East Sussex County Council is asking for your views on how services could be improved.  The survey period runs out on the 14th September.

Is it worth participating?

Who knows what the County will do with your responses, but if few people respond this will probably be taken as a lack of interest in buses, so please respond.  Detail here

ELECTRIC BIKE BATTERY PRICES

Travelman has frequently warned that you should check the price of a replacement battery when buying an e-bike.  Battery life varies, but you should generally budget for having to replace the battery every 3 years of regular use.

The Islabikes E-bikes will cost you £700 to replace.  This includes having to ship the bike back to their factory because you cannot remove the battery yourself.

The same advice applies if you are buying an electric car, although there are not enough old electric cars to know how long the batteries typically last.

ELECTRIC BIKE THEFTS

There has been a spate of thefts of electric bikes in Lewes recently.  One person had their bike stolen outside Waitrose in the middle of the day.  Apparently the thief cut the lock holding the bike to the stand, and dragged the bike, which still had the lock on the wheel attached, to a van round the corner. Lots of people saw it but nobody did anything.

In another case an angle grinder was used to detach a locked bike from the stand inside the bike store at the station.  The locked bike store at the station gives a false sense of security since it can be opened with a key card which anyone can get.

There have also been reports of thefts of batteries, which are quite easy to remove from the bike in some cases.

It is clear that professional bike thieves have cottoned on to the fact that electric bikes are expensive and worth nicking.  Take care and be suspicious if offered a second had electric bike.

WALKS

This month’s walks selected from the website, all with a railway theme

The Rye and Camber Cheeky Girls Walk
A walk linking one of the most beautiful and historic towns in the South East with one of the best beaches in the region, using the track of the Rye and Camber tramway.  A great walk any time, but particularly on a sunny day. 4 miles / 6.4 km, 1hr 20 minutes, flat.

Marching to Battle
A fine walk through the high weald starting and finishing at stations on the Hastings line.  The South Eastern Railway was proud of its London to Hastings Line and this walk lets you have a look at two of the beautiful stations it built.  But it was betrayed by its contractors, whose poor tunnelling work forced it to line the tunnels, restricting train size.  The walk gives you a chance to have a close look at one of these tunnels and also to have a look at the, stil working, Mountfield freight branch, and to see perhaps the last level crossing warning with a steam engine on it!   Plus, at the start at Robertsbridge Station, you can see the new Rother Valley Railway which will hopefully soon link the Kent and East Sussex Railway with the main railway system.

Balcombe and the High Weald
The High Weald is the best place for walking in Sussex.This walk, which is easy to get to from many parts of the south east, introduces you to the some joys of the High Weald and gives you the chance to photograph, examine and watch trains crossing the fabulous Ouse Valley viaduct.  Also there is the opportunity to look at the disused canalisation of the upper river Ouse.. 6 miles, 10 km

Transports of Delight, Barcombe to Isfield
Old railways, closed and preserved, a bus route that needs preserving, an old canal, pubs, riverside walks, ice cream, boat rides, wild swimming, pastoral countryside. What else do you need? 6.5 km 4 miles

The Lavender Line Walk, Isfield
3.8miles 6.2km | Leisurely .This walk offers a short and level rural ramble through the fields and woods of Isfield and also offers you the chance to visit the Lavender Line, one of the more intimate and uncrowded preserved heritage railways.

On the trail of the Daddy Longlegs
3.8miles 6.1km. This ramble follows the course of the famous railway that ran from Brighton to Rottindean in the sea. The daddy longlegs ran on twin tracks, 18ft apart. Mostly level and wheelchair accessible with a couple of steep slopes.

Or…… What?
7.5 miles, 12km.  This walk starts at the mystical station of Ore and takes in both the East and West Cliff Lifts in Hastings and also the Hastings Miniature Railway.  The length can be reduced to a town route of about 4 miles that takes in all the railway features