Its vital that we have an effective and dynamic Parliament, anything less is a waste of the annual 2Bn cost of running the institution. We can all see the large set piece events and debates and perhaps some of them provide enough evidence to shut down Westminster for good. However in the small, detailed parts of the institution, we can find just as many compelling reasons for change. As a resident of Sussex, one of the critical issues affecting our lives is transport and communication. We have far fewer miles of dual carriage way than many other Counties, in some of our rural areas broadband is still only a dream, and the train infrastructure is at bursting point. Enter stage Right the MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield. She asked a written question about upgrading the rail infrastructure. The amortised cost of a written question and answer is estimated to cost you and I £164 and whilst that is not a fortune, it is more than the cost of a weekly season ticket from Brighton to London for instance! It is money that could be used for other purposes if the question or answer are inadequate. So Maria asked:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what long-term investment plans the Government has to improve the Brighton Main Line.
The question seems perfectly good and clear, it gives the Government scope to respond as they see fit, but it is a matter that many people living in Sussex are interested in, so we really want the full £164 worth from the answer which came in the name of Paul Maynard the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Transport and Rail Minister:
Network Rail is currently developing proposals for potential upgrades of theBrighton Main Line, following the conclusions of the Sussex Route Study, and the London South Coast Rail Corridor Study, both of which highlighted significant capacity and performance constraints. Government will fund Network Rail to develop proposals as necessary.
I have highlighted words to try to show what a pathetic response to the question this answer is. I guess in terms of value, I would suggest this is a £25-£30 answer to Marias question, yet we have been charged the equivalent of £164. I feel short changed and that my money has been wasted. I would be very interested in a full answer to the question, and wonder what can be done to ensure that people like Paul Maynard and his many civil servants can be obliged to answer this question adequately. As it stands its a bit like some of the trains that Southern is failing to run at the moment.
I should confess that I have an interest in this issue, my office window and desk in Uckfield overlooks the old track bed which was torn up by Doctor Beeching on 4th May 1969 and after several meetings in my previous role, Roger Blake of the BML2 group persuaded me that his is a realistic way of securing greater capacity for the travelers in Sussex. It is now 47 years since the Uckfield line was closed and 3 years since Patrick McLoughlin Transport Minister announced on 9th May 2013 that the Department for Transport had asked Network Rail to explore the possible re-opening of the Lewes to Uckfield route. It is not unreasonable therefore to expect a more comprehensive answer to Maria’s question than the one provided last Thursday by the Rail Minister. Is it possible to get our money back?