City unites over call to build new Sussex main line

Brighton Station Gateline

 

BML2 would bring about enormous economic benefits to both Greater Brighton and Greater London

 


 

Representatives of Brighton & Hove have united in their unreserved backing to the Brighton Main Line 2 Project and will put pressure on the Government to concede its importance, not only to the City, but the whole of Sussex.

 

The Conservative Group Leader on Brighton & Hove City Council, Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald, is calling for a second Brighton to London rail mainline – BML2 – to become a reality and, furthermore, he wants it to be the centrepiece of the Greater Brighton devolution bid to Government.

 

The powerful Greater Brighton Economic Board, of which Cllr. Theobald is a member, comprises the Leaders and Chief Executives of Brighton & Hove City Council, Lewes District Council, Mid Sussex District Council and Adur & Worthing Councils and therefore commands considerable influence.

 

BML2 would bring benefits to all these authorities. Its Sussex and Kent Phases would reduce the enormous pressure on the Brighton Line and introduce new additional direct services between London and Brighton, Lewes, Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells. Its London Phase would enable direct services from Chichester, Horsham, Gatwick, Worthing, Brighton & Hove, Lewes, Eastbourne, Hastings, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge to reach Canary Wharf (Crossrail) and Stratford. Some of these could operate beyond into East Anglia and on to Stansted Airport, thus avoiding central London bottlenecks.   

 

The GBE Board has recently submitted a bid to Government for more powers to be devolved to the local area, including decisions on transport investment. This is likely to find a sympathetic ear with Chancellor George Osborne who, in speaking about BML2 last spring, declared Sussex was: “– a part of the country so often ignored, or left behind under previous Governments.”

 

Cllr. Theobald, a long-standing and staunch supporter of the Brighton Main Line 2 Project believes strong emphasis must be placed on BML2 in the negotiation process because it would deliver so much. Similarly, the Government is minded to devolve decision-making to the regions; rather than leaving such critically important matters as transport the sole responsibility of DfT officials based in London.

 

In commendably speaking up for all of Sussex, Cllr. Theobald explained: “All the areas such as Manchester and Birmingham which have been successful in their negotiations with Government for greater powers have had a bold and ambitious vision for their areas. By putting the very obvious case for a second direct rail line from Brighton to London at the forefront of our bid, I firmly believe that we can join these municipal powerhouses.”

 

Mindful of George Osborne’s personal intervention this summer to see BML2 explored, as opposed to yet another Lewes–Uckfield reopening study, Cllr. Theobald outlined his reasons why BML2 must now be firmly on the table alongside other schemes: “The Government is clearly very keen on investing in new rail infrastructure through projects such as HS2, Crossrail 1 & 2 and HS3 so I do believe that we would be knocking on an open door, or at the very least, one that has not been bolted shut.”

 

With characteristic perception, he emphasised that the desperately-needed new main line was as much about the economy as transport and should therefore be treated accordingly: “BML2 would bring about enormous economic benefits to both Greater Brighton and Greater London.”

 

Mindful too of the increasing daily crush and the unrelenting pressure under which the Brighton Line is forced to operate, Cllr Theobald said BML2 would: “ease congestion and give passengers a direct and reliable alternative when things go wrong.”

 

Brighton and Hove’s MPs are equally determined to press the Government to get on with building BML2. As a regular rail user herself and mindful of the fractured rail network which needs extending, the City’s Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Brighton’s commuters are fed up with the shoddy service they have to put up with. It’s abundantly clear that the Government should invest in Brighton Main Line 2. Not only would the new line ease congestion on the route to London but it would connect Brighton to towns in East Sussex, Kent and Surrey – thus giving people a viable option to leave their cars at home when visiting our city.”

 

Over the years the popular MP has made several trips down the Uckfield line to its current stump in East Sussex and has been an ardent supporter of regenerating Sussex’s lost main line, first as a Green MEP and then as a Brighton MP. She declared:  “I fully support the BML2 project and will continue to put pressure on the Government to turn this very positive vision into a reality.”

 

The Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Cllr Warren Morgan, spoke on behalf of the Labour Group and said: “We all know that the BML needs an alternative, even Network Rail admit this. BML2 would open up more services to London with new destinations in Kent and beyond. It would significantly benefit Gatwick and ease the chronic overcrowding on the present service. If the Greater Brighton area is to truly prosper then BML2 is the key to unlocking that economic growth and we call on the Government to recognise this.”

 

The City’s Green Party spokesperson on economic development, Councillor Tom Druitt, equally asserts that BML2 is not just about transport: “Proposals to develop a second Brighton Mainline would be a huge boost to the local economy, increasing the attractiveness of Brighton as a tourist destination as well delivering greatly improved links between Brighton and East Sussex.”

 

He said he hoped the Government would start building an alternative London–Brighton rail connection, because only this would ease pressure on an already strained network. He added there is a clear need to significantly reduce delays and bottlenecks – “making rail travel the best choice for residents, commuters and visitors to the city.”  

 

He concluded: “The Brighton Main Line 2 project is an essential investment which will pay for itself many times over and is a critical element of a more sustainable development plan for the South East region”.