Former 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 train line from Seaford to Brighton.


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.”


Representatives of the communities on the Seaford to Brighton railway line have chosen to rebrand the route as the Sussex Downs Line to encourage people to use the train to travel to the area and between the places on the route.


Tim Barkley, chair of the Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, welcomed Mr Baker to the organisation at Lewes railway station.


He said: “We are very pleased that Norman Baker has been elected as the Chair of the newly renamed community rail line 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.”


Southeast Communities Rail Partnership works to connect people to their railways. It is a Community Interest Company working in collaboration with key partners including train operator Southern, community groups, local authorities and volunteers to promote rail travel as a sustainable and healthy mode of transport.


Chris Fowler, customer services director for Southern, commented: “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 CRP. I’m sure the newly renamed route will flourish with Norman’s wealth of experience helping to continue developing community rail.”


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


Mr 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.


Mr Baker takes over as community rail Line Chair from former Seaford town councillor Jon Freeman who 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.


Photo caption: 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