The campaigners pushing for a second Brighton main line (BML2) are to meet the Transport Secretary at the end of the month.
Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby wrote to Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, before Christmas, asking him to meet the BML2 consortium.
Mr Grayling has agreed to meet the campaigners on Monday week (30 January) to learn more about their proposal.
Mr Kirby said: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to this meeting. I believe that this project could be a long-term solution to resolving some of the problems on the existing line.”
He said: “The project aims to provide improvements for passengers between Brighton and London as well as creating the conditions for regeneration, relieving housing pressure, increasing investment and creating employment from the south coast to east and south-east London and beyond.”
Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, who previously served as a Brighton councillor, has also pushed for the BML2 project.
She wrote in the Daily Telegraph last month: “Sussex is in desperate need of extra capacity and the best way to create that is a second main line from the south coast to London.
“A proposal for this already exists. Brighton Main Line 2 (BML2) would create a new route from the coast up to Canary Wharf which would take pressure off Brighton Main Line 1, making it easier to upgrade and maintain those creaking old tracks.
“This project could begin in as little as 18 months. A feasibility study is already on Mr Grayling’s desk and foreign investors are waiting to fund it.”
Another leading Conservative, Geoffrey Theobald, the opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council, has also been a vocal supporter of the scheme.
Councillor Theobald has flagged up the proposal at meetings of the Greater Brighton Economic Board.
But support for the project is not confined to the Conservative Party. The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, has also added her voice to the debate.
She asked the government to publish a study that ministers commissioned in 2015. Mr Grayling said that its release was long overdue.
And Lord Bassam of Brighton, the Labour chief whip in the House of Lords, has also offered support. As Steve Bassam, he was the leader of Brighton and Hove Council. Since becoming a peer, he has – like the city’s MPs – commuted enough to appreciate the need for more rail capacity.
The campaigners have worked up a three-phase proposal. They want to reinstate the old double-track main line rail links into both Tunbridge Wells (West) and Lewes via Oxted.
BML2 also includes plans for a mile-and-a-half-long Ashcombe tunnel under the South Downs to provide fast direct access to Brighton via Falmer.
There are also hopes of linking up with a route to the Stratford area which could have benefits for passengers and, crucially, ensure that the project becomes more viable for its financial backers.