Transport Secretary asks Network Rail to look at Brighton Main Line 2

Posted On 10 May 2013 at 9:10 am

Rail commuters from Brighton, Hove and Portslade may be given a second mainline route to London.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has asked Network Rail to look at ways of increasing capacity between London and the south coast.

Specifically, he wants to know whether reopening the Uckfield to Lewes line “will meet the demand for the future growth in rail travel”.

The Conservative Transport Secretary discussed the issue with the Liberal Democrat Lewes MP and fellow coalition transport minister Norman Baker during a trip to Lewes yesterday.

The two men visited Lewes Railway Station which lost its link to Uckfield more than 40 years ago when it was closed by East Sussex County Council.

Mr McLoughlin said: “I am alive to local interest in reopening this line and wider concerns about rail capacity between London and the south coast and this is why I have commissioned this study.

Norman Baker

Norman Baker

“It will help us to understand exactly what the issues are and build upon previous work that has looked at these questions.”

Mr Baker has long supported reconnecting Lewes and Uckfield but opposes the Brighton Main Line 2 (BML2) project which aims to revive direct trains between Brighton and London along the route.

Former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis recently told Lord Bassam of Brighton that it was “stark staring obvious” that Brighton needs a second main line.

Lord Bassam, the former Labour leader of Brighton and Hove Council, backs as do the the three Brighton and Hove MPs and many councillors.

Brian Hart, who instigated the Wealden Line Campaign 27 years ago and is BML2’s project manager, said that Network Rail had nowhere else to go to increase capacity.

He said that the Brighton main line was full and could not be expanded.

But yet another Lewes to Uckfield study would meet the same fate as all the others over the past 40 years, he warned.

Mr Hart said: “Network Rail’s 2008 study proved beyond doubt there was neither a business case nor an answer to their capacity conundrum by opening a local line.”

He said that the root of the problem was the absence of an additional direct Brighton to London main line.

It could be addressed only with BML2’s proposed Ashcombe tunnel through the South Downs. He said: “Tunnel construction is easy and has been revolutionised as Crossrail is demonstrating. It’s akin to pushing an apple corer through cheese.”

The Department for Transport said: “Recent moves to devolve decision-making for local transport schemes will also give greater freedom to local councils and enterprise partnerships to determine priorities and allocate funding accordingly.”

Mr Hart added: “While we are all heartened that Patrick McLoughlin is ‘alive’ to opening the line, this is not a local issue but a massive problem for London and the South East.

“It can’t be done on a shoestring. Without BML2 the region will ultimately reach rail gridlock as this is the only realistic means of providing the capacity so badly needed.”


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  2. David Kerr Reply

    Whilst this seems a good idea the actual logistics of re-instatement of the line out of Lewes to Uckfield are going to be very hard to actually to fulfil as the route of the old line has been totally eliminated around the area of Lewes and its station as the new road has taken up the former trackbed and that is just the start as if you solve this problem we have then to move towards Uckfield and that has quite a few problems as well! Moving on towards London we have lost the Station at Selsdon and rail route from there as the line has been taken over by the Croydon Tramlink, therefore the alternative would be to use the existing Junction station East Croydon and that stations throughput is already at capacity as it is on the existing overcrowded Brighton Main Line. Perhaps the biggest mistake was to close the line fron Eridge to Tunbridge Wells as that is now occupied by a Private Preserved Railway Line! Overall the intentions are good but the lack of thought in the past namely by Beeching has resulted in a total lack of capacity in the existing network as lines were closed without thought to what growth would be in the future!

  3. J E Rivers Vaughan Reply

    Firstly, the problem at Lewes was not caused by the Beeching cuts as the original route was not on the closure list, but rather by Lewes’ own grandiose road scheme, which never came to fruition. The only solution is either to build the proposed Ashcombe tunnel or demolish a number of properties in Lewes – doubtless the latter would be unacceptable.

    BML2 has to be seen and approached as a major infrastructure project and will doubtless cost in the region of £500,000,000. But it would be very well worth it in the long term, and even in the short term, people will wonder how they managed without it.

    It would seem Mr Baker has a somewhat blinkered attitude – it would be pointless reopening the route via Uckfield unless the trains ran to Brighton. Using the existing infrastructure, trains would of course come into Lewes ‘the wrong way round’. However, one cannot help wondering whether it would really be a major inconvenience if drivers had to swap ends at Lewes, and it would certainly be very much cheaper.

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