The possibility of a second railway line to Brighton is back on the cards once more after chancellor George Osborne announced funding for a feasibility study.
The Brighton Main Line 2 (BML2 campaign) has been pushing for a second line from the capital to the coast, by doubling the adjacent Uckfield line and extending it south, for many years.
The reopening of the Lewes to Uckfield line has previously been dismissed by Network Rail in 2008 – but a second feasability study first announced earlier this year is now set to also explore its extension to the coast, which BML2 campaigner Brian Hart proposes doing via a new tunnel at Ashcombe.
In a letter to Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, Mr Osborne wrote: “I announced funding earlier this year towards a feasibility study for the re-opening of the Lewes–Uckfield line.
“However, I want to go further and take the opportunity to look at rail links in Sussex more generally, including the viability of a Brighton Main Line 2.
“Therefore, as part of the summer budget, I have announced the extension of the scope of the Lewes–Uckfield study to look at improving rail links between London and the south coast, including upgrades to existing routes, consideration of the Brighton Main Line corridor, and re-examination of the Department for Transport’s feasibility study on BML2.”
The Brighton Main Line 2 campaign (BML2) have welcomed his statement, saying: “George Osborne has unquestionably shown he is his own man, whilst the fact that he, rather than the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, has made this statement is exceptionally encouraging.
“We therefore trust that under his stewardship the BML2 project will be properly and fully explored for all its substantial economic, social and environmental benefits to London and the South East.
“As Chancellor, he more than anyone else, realizes the potential it holds by giving the capital’s commercial heartland new horizons, as well as all rail-users new hope.”
However, Hove’s Labour MP Peter Kyle is more cautious, saying that the chancellor’s past statements referenced a previous feasibility study which had never actually been carried out.
He said: “George Osborne needs to come good on his pre-election promises on BML2 – previous statements from the DfT have seemed to contradict what the Chancellor has been saying.
“This feasibility study needs to examine the BML2 proposals in full – residents will be left short changed if it turns into another examination of the Lewes to Uckfield link which has been dismissed by the department before.”
But the Conservative’s Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby was more optimistic. He said: “It is great news that the Chancellor has said he will include the viability of a Brighton Main Line 2 in the upgrade study.
“As a regular commuter myself, I am very much aware of the frustration that an unreliable service can cause. I have been pressing for improvements for a long time, together with other MPs in the South and am delighted that the chancellor has taken this decision.”
The letter followed