Construction of the new station building at Uckfield is complete and it is now open for passengers to use. This brand new, much awaited station has been built as part of the Department for Transport’s National Station Improvement Programme (NSIP), and will bring noticeable and lasting improvements for the thousands of passengers who use the station each year.
Through NSIP, the temporary station at Uckfield has been replaced with a modern building, increased seating for passengers, more bicycle parking facilities, space for a small retail facility, additional shelters on the platform and improved access for passengers with reduced mobility. The new building is also easier for railway staff to maintain, and provides more resistance to vandalism.
The new station was formally opened on Tuesday 16th March 2010 by long standing Southern passenger, Mrs Mary Fox and station clerk, Jan Pratt. Mrs Fox has been travelling from Uckfield station for the past 75 years, and continues to do so to this day. Also present at the event were the Mayor of Uckfield, Councillor Len Ashby, Wealden MP, Charles Hendry, Southern Managing Director, Chris Burchell, Network Rail Sussex Route Director, Fiona Taylor and guests comprising Southern stakeholders and passengers.
Southern Managing Director, Chris Burchell said: “Our Uckfield passengers have finally got the station they expect and deserve. This superb new station will provide them with excellent facilities and the station itself will contribute greatly towards the town, which is expanding fast. This new station should more than meet the requirements of both the town and our passengers for many years to come.”
The mayor of Uckfield, Councillor Len Ashby said: “It is particularly gratifying to see that this renewed passion for rail travel is no better exemplified than here on the Uckfield Line, where long-overdue investment has seen passenger numbers rocket in recent years thanks to the recently introduced Turbostars and direct London Bridge Services. We, as a town who cherishes its railway, thank Southern for their efforts in recent years and also Network Rail for working with them and our other partner organisations, to achieve the construction of this new station.”
Network Rail Sussex Route Director, Fiona Taylor said: “With record levels of punctuality and a major programme of investment underway to enable longer trains to run, providing more seats for passengers, we can now put increased focus on improving stations. The new facilities and modular design building at Uckfield are a great example of how the rail industry is working together to bring Britain’s stations into the 21st century.”
Charles Hendry MP said: “I am delighted that Uckfield has finally got the station facilities it deserves and I am very grateful to Southern for investing the funds to provide this excellent new station. Rail travellers will now have extra seating and more shelters which will be greatly welcomed. In recent years, we have seen a greatly improved train service and now we have a modern station.”
The original Victorian station was opened in October 1858, when Uckfield was the terminus of the branch line from Lewes. In 1868, the line at Uckfield was extended north to Tunbridge Wells. When the Uckfield-Lewes section of the line was closed in 1968, the writing was on the wall for the old station and in 1991, the station building was closed. It quickly fell into disrepair and became a victim of vandalism and arson attacks.
Eventually, the station was demolished in December 2000. Leading up to the closure of the old station, its replacement was being constructed on opposite side of the road in order to improve access to it. It was a portakabin-type structure which was intended be temporary. This second station incarnation became unfit for purpose in 2008 and was replaced by a second temporary station building. Meanwhile, plans to build a new station on the site were in place, and shortly after the installation of the second temporary building, construction on the new station began.
In March 2000, the total number of journeys made from Uckfield for the previous 12 months stood at 107,000. For the next four and a half years, journey numbers stayed relatively stable with an average of 110,000 journeys made. However, this changed dramatically in December 2004 when the regular direct service to London Bridge was introduced and at around the same time came the demise of the old slam door diesel ‘Thumpers’ and the introduction of a brand new fleet of Class 171 Turbostar diesels. As a result, journeys made from Uckfield shot up in just six months to 138,000 and continued to grow by around 50,000 per year. The latest figures show total journeys made from Uckfield for 2008/2009 weigh in at 335,000 – a staggering 179% increase in just 5 years!