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Former rail minister appointed chair of newly renamed Sussex Downs Line

Sussex Downs Line chair Norman Baker (left) and Southeast Communities Rail Partnership chair Tim Barkley (right) unveil the newly renamed Sussex Downs Line community rail route at Lewes Station. Photo credit: Southeast Communities Rail Partnership

Former Rail Minister and Lewes MP Norman Baker has been chosen to chair the newly renamed Sussex Downs Line community rail route.

He will steer the group which connects communities to their railways along the line from Seaford to Brighton.

Representatives of communities along line chose to rebrand the route as the Sussex Downs Line to encourage people to use the train to travel to the area.

The rebranded line was launched at Lewes Station with the unveiling of a poster showcasing a photograph of the Sussex Downs near Brighton taken by Southern’s Lewes station manager Andy Gardner, who is an amateur photographer.

Norman Baker was the MP for Lewes from 1997 to 2015 and served as a transport minister with responsibility for rail from May 2010 until October 2013. He is now the policy and campaigns adviser at the Campaign for Better Transport. He also worked as a British Rail booking office employee in the 1980s at Finsbury Park, Harringay and Hornsey stations in North London.

He takes over as chair from former Seaford town councillor Jon Freeman, who sadly died last autumn. Lewes town councillor Cllr Stephen Catlin, who has been the steering group’s interim chair since Mr Freeman’s death, was re-elected as the vice-chair of the Sussex Downs Line.

Mr Baker said: “Our railway is an essential part of the fabric of our local life and I am delighted to be able to help support it in my new role.”

Tim Barkley, chair of the Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, said: “We are very pleased that Norman Baker has been elected as the chair of the newly renamed Sussex Downs Line. He brings a wealth of experience to this role at the national and local level and is committed to improving rail travel for the local communities along the line.”

Chris Fowler, customer services director for Southern, added: “We welcome the news of Norman Baker’s appointment as line chair for the Sussex Downs Line and look forward to working with him and Southeast Communities Rail Partnership. I’m sure the newly renamed route will flourish with Norman’s wealth of experience helping to continue developing community rail.”

Find out more about the work of Southeast Communities Rail Partnership here.