BML2 Project Route

BML2 Downloads

 

 London & South Coast Analysis 2015

 

The latest publication released by the BML2 Project Group in December 2015

 

The download file is approx 4.5mb

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Why the South

desperately

needs

Brighton

Main Line 2

 

The download file is approx 3mb.

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Why only BML2

can benefit Lewes

 

This brochure clearly shows why the BML2 Project is the ONLY viable scheme on the table that would reconnect the railway from Uckfield directly to BOTH Brighton and Lewes with the least impact of noise and visual appearance within the South Downs National Park.

 

The download file is approx 1.33mb.

 

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Response to

Network Rail's draft

Sussex Area Route Study

 

The download file is approx 1.5mb.

 

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Have you also seen our BML2 Limited Edition Wallpapers?

Available FREE in various resolutions to suit desktop, laptop, tablets and mobile users

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Lord Bassam of Brighton explains why he considers the BML2 Project is so important to the South

 

...... click to continue to his in-depth review

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Latest BML2 Publication

London & South Coast Analysis 2015

London & South Coast Analysis 2015 

A 24pp in-depth analysis produced by the BML2 Project Group is now available to download for viewing or printing.

The file is approx 4.5mb in pdf format.

 

Click on image to start the download.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grayling invites funders for Brighton Main Line 2

 

London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study

 

The Transport Secretary has met with promoters of the BML2 concept and encouraged them

to continue to develop their proposals for it to be delivered and funded privately.


The publication of the Government’s delayed London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study is long overdue. In fact, it is nearly two years since the report was announced by former chancellor George Osborne in April 2015 during his tour of Sussex. It is also virtually a year since it was completed and delivered by consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff (April 2016). During that time we have witnessed demand rising apace on the South East main lines with overcrowding and poor resilience creating a daily struggle for millions of commuters.

 

We know many have been disappointed with some of the findings and the news. For example, the day after the report’s publication The Times declared: ‘Plans for a new railway line between London and the south coast have been scrapped because it would be too expensive’ whilst local TV and radio broadcasters carried similar stories. In fact, events of the past twelve months have quickly overtaken the report’s objective which was to examine whether there was a case for the Government to sponsor and fund a new main line between London and the Sussex Coast.

 

It was last spring that we entered discussions with a private sector led consortium and we are delighted that they and their international partners have recognised the sizeable potential and opportunities presented by BML2. Fully aware of the severe stress on Governments budgets, as well as commitments to other transport aspirations, the private sector perceived a valuable opportunity to invest in what it believes is a wholly worthwhile venture. Accordingly, the London & Southern Counties Railway Consortium (LSCR) has been specifically established to organize the promotion, funding arrangements, legal processing, scoping and detailed designing in order to deliver BML2 for the nation.

 

In regard to the newly-published study LSCR issued the following statement:

 

‘We welcome the publication of the London and South Coast Rail Corridor study. We are delighted that the Government has signalled its support for a private sector solution to solve capacity issues on the Brighton mainline. Our approach to a solution is focusing on developing a route that would provide new capacity for the millions of daily commuters, and to serve the areas of rapid housing and employment growth in the Southern counties and in South East London. The project is still at a relatively early stage and we are working through our pre-feasibility processes to create a viable and fundable proposition for investors. We look forward to ongoing engagement with Department for Transport officials and ministers in the coming weeks.’

 

With Prime Minister Theresa May triggering Article 50 this month – which will begin the process of Britain leaving the European Union – it is widely acknowledged that it is all the more important for a post-Brexit UK to cast its net far and wide to attract global stakeholders. For that reason, the Consortium has been working on the assumption that private sector funding involving international investors would be made available for 100% of the scheme.

 

As LSCR has pointed out, the accomplishment of the Chiltern Railways Project Evergreen has demonstrated that private sector developed infrastructure can be successfully delivered and integrated into the overall national network.

 

The Consortium perceived increasing Government appetite for private investment in UK infrastructure as the ideal opportunity to reposition the dedicated work of the Wealden Line Campaign’s Brighton Main Line 2 project. Aware that such a scheme can only be driven so far by a long-standing voluntary group, LSCR proposes elevating BML2 onto a fully professional, project footing capable of providing the very needful firm foundations which the private business sector would expect. Accordingly, LSCR’s pre-feasibility work has been modelled on the principal BML2 route options and, perhaps not surprisingly, has revealed numerous avenues for further route development where even greater value could be extracted. This process, known as optioneering, will see the project further refined in order to produce a scheme that is suitable for private sector involvement and investment.

 

Capable of doing something utterly beyond the appreciable limited scope of the BML2 project group, LSCR has brought to the table leading companies which have global expertise in infrastructure, economics, property and financing. This has transformed the scheme from just being a good idea to a thoroughly realistic proposition.

 

A spokesman for LSCR said: “We have been genuinely impressed by the commitment all those involved in this long campaign have shown over thirty years towards improving the prospects of the region and the lives of those who depend so much on the South East rail network. In BML2 we perceived a project of real value which could, if taken forward by professional companies, deliver tangible and substantial rewards for London and the South East, the rail industry and the people who live here. It was for this reason that we wanted to be involved. We sincerely hope that with the Government’s blessing and helpful co-operation we can bring this to fruition as soon as possible.”

 

So while some might be disheartened by the findings of the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study, now we have that government green light to seek a private-sector led solution, and with a Consortium of private investors at the ready who truly understand the potential for infrastructure to unlock housing and power economic growth, there are many reasons to be positive about the future of the London and South East rail network. 

 

 

 

 

 

Going underground – private sector backs Brighton Main Line 2

The March issue of RAIL PROFESSIONAL features the latest developments surrounding the BML2 Project and the private sector organisations intending to bring it to fruition.

 

Rail Professional Cover _ March 2017 Editor Lorna Slade says:

 

“We are honoured to have a ‘scoop’ in Rail Professional from the BML2 Project Group (interview) announcing its new ability to move towards a fully professional project funding.


The group considering a new tunnelled route going through to Stratford via Canary Wharf was the catalyst for a number of infrastructure businesses to come together under the London and South Coast Railway Consortium (LSCR) to examine the concept of a tunnelled solution and the business case – encouraged by the government’s increasing appetite for private investment. Now there is a real prospect that the years of campaigning by BML2 will finally pay off.”

 

BML2 project manager Brian Hart thanked Rail Professional for its coverage of this important scheme and told its readers: “Dependent upon the outcome of the feasibility study there is the potential for the LSCR Consortium to fund, design and deliver a project with all the benefits of BML2 and the London link tunnel. The Consortium which is now taking the project forward is operating on the basis that private sector funding through international investors would be made available for 100 per cent of the scheme.


Railways are simply the best generator of growth, and infrastructure projects like BML2 really deliver on the Government’s drive to create a modern industrial strategy.”
 
To read the full interview ONLINE click here and go to page 74 of the March issue of RAIL PROFESSIONAL


 

Note for editors: RAIL PROFESSIONAL is a monthly business-orientated railway journal read by the industry’s managers. Launched in 1996, the magazine was born out of the privatisation of the industry and the need to provide a managerial forum for the new rail business community.

 

 

 

 

Transport Secretary shows keen interest in Brighton Main Line 2

 Brighton's second mainline before closure

Photo by kind courtesy John Wenham

 

Closed in 1969, Brighton’s second main line is now part of serious proposals to boost the rail network and the economy.


 

Throughout the past year the BML2 Project Group has been in discussion with a number of professional individuals who are attracted by the massive potential of the scheme. Their purpose was to scrutinize the proposal and explore the opportunities which BML2 could provide for growth in the capital, as well as improving and strengthening transport links for the many thousands of people who commute every day across London and the South East.

 

The culmination of these protracted discussions has been the creation of a limited company by the long-running Wealden Line Campaign (est.1986) in order to protect the interests of its project – Brighton Main Line 2. As a result, BML2 Consultancy Ltd will continue to play an important role in steering the project and working closely with other entities now preparing to carry through such a large-scale undertaking as BML2 in its entirety.

 

2016 brought about a seismic shift; BML2 is no longer an aspiration, but a tangible and serious business proposition, whilst a number of keynote meetings with various parties enabled rudimentary facts to be established. This was an important process because we had to cover fundamental aspects, such as hitherto route protection, likely engineering challenges, aspects of technical feasibility, exploration of investment opportunities, potential commercial benefits and, most important of all, substantial gains for passengers and the rail industry. Growing confidence led to a decision in November to approach the Government.

 

The initial step was a meeting with established and high-profile supporters of BML2 who would be in a position to allocate to the project sufficient serious attention. Lewes MP Maria Caulfield; Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby; and Cllr Geoffrey Theobald OBE from Brighton & Hove City Council were duly given a short presentation at the beginning of December whereupon the latest proposals were unveiled.

 

Although not needing any convincing about the substantial merits of BML2 at that meeting, Simon Kirby told the consultancy group that he would be pleased to take up the matter with the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and seek a meeting at the earliest opportunity. Accordingly, on Monday 30 January, a delegation, including Sussex MPs and representatives from London & Southern Counties Railways (LSCR) the private sector consortium now seeking to take the project further, was able to meet with Chris Grayling to discuss in broad terms the proposals for new links, as set out by BML2, in order to strengthen the South East rail network.

 

A spokesman for the LSCR Consortium said: “The BML2 project group has done an excellent job in making the case for extra capacity on the Brighton Mainline route. A new privately-funded line would create additional connections for towns across the southern counties and benefit millions of commuters on one of the UK’s most overcrowded rail routes.”

He went on to explain: “These were initial discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling who was keen to learn more about the project. While the project is still at a relatively early stage, we are encouraged by the interest shown by the Secretary of State and look forward to further positive engagement with Department for Transport officials in the coming months.”

Simon Kirby MP said afterwards: “I was pleased to arrange today’s meeting and feel that it is definitely a step in the right direction. This project would bring significant advantages and benefits to Brighton and the surrounding area. It would ease pressure on the congested Brighton to London commuter line, would boost tourism and visitor numbers to the area and would bring more jobs and economic opportunity.”

 

Mr Kirby also highlighted a key strength of BML2 by adding: “I also welcome the prospect of direct train services between London and the AMEX Stadium”. As previously pointed out by Lord Bassam of Brighton, this would be equally beneficial for the University of Sussex at nearby Falmer station on the new main line, giving it superior direct links to central London and beyond to Cambridge.

 

Equal recognition was also made of the fact that BML2 would be in a prime position to support the parallel Brighton main line by relieving pressure and over-demand, as well as making it easier to carry out regular maintenance. Also noted was the construction of Ashcombe tunnel beneath the South Downs to allow BML2 to provide the all-important fast, direct access into the City of Brighton & Hove.

 

Equally positive was Lewes MP Maria Caulfield who has consistently championed the project, despite being heavily criticised for doing so by her predecessor, Norman Baker, who lost his parliamentary seat to her in 2015. She told her constituents that investors are looking to plough billions of pounds in the South East to provide a new rail link into the capital. Having lobbied the Secretary of State for many months over the issue, she said prior to Monday’s meeting: “I am grateful to the Transport Secretary for taking the time to meet with us. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure we put our case across and show just how much BML2 is needed for the South East.”

 

The project featured on BBC South East Today, as well as BBC Sussex who interviewed the MPs the following day. We also understand BML2 will be discussed on BBC Sunday Politics South East on 5 February 2017.

 

The BML2 Project Group is immensely grateful to Chris Grayling for agreeing to this initial briefing and to the Sussex MPs who have shown such commitment to the scheme. We would like to emphasise that, quite apart from its central role of improving transport, BML2 has an equally crucial role in supporting business growth and general prosperity. Railways are so important in this respect and have a particularly special role to play in moving mass numbers of people around in an environmentally-sustainable way. This applies in particular to the region where we have a number of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the South Downs National Park and large areas of Green Belt. In this context we would like to pay equal tribute to Brighton MP Caroline Lucas who has been equally committed in her support of BML2 and lobbying Government on behalf of her constituents.

 

Without doubt, 2017 represents a turning point in the long struggle to revive those lost rail links, as well as making new ones. Accordingly we look forward with renewed enthusiasm to the days and months ahead as BML2 looks set to finally become a reality.

 

 

 

Grayling urged to consider ‘A railway that works for everyone’

Before & After

 

Two views of Barcombe Mills from the same viewpoint. On the left when trains ran between Uckfield and Lewes before

the aborted Lewes Relief Road scheme caused closure and on the right Edwina Currie, ex-Tory politician cycling along the old trackbed

 


 

Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Sussex MP Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown) has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, requesting that he meets the Brighton Main Line 2 Project Group.

 

In the wake of serious commercial interest in BML2 now being shown by international investment companies, a briefing meeting was held on Friday 2 December to provide an overview of the latest proposals to Simon Kirby and Maria Caulfield MP (Lewes), as well as Cllr Geoffrey Theobald, Conservative Leader on Brighton & Hove City Council. All three are well-known locally for having championed BML2 from the outset.

 

It is encouraging that investors remain undeterred by the referendum result; indeed, it appears that they are keener than ever to roll up their sleeves, bring their expertise to these shores and get this formidable project off the ground as soon as possible.

 

A slide presentation outlining more ambitious plans within London was given by the BML2 Project Group – which has recently been registered as a limited company. All proposals strictly adhere to the three-phase approach of BML2, ensuring the Sussex and Kent phases remain fundamental. Both are crucial to guaranteeing the success of the far more ambitious London phase.

 

For those new to the project, the first two are principally reinstating the former double-track main line rail links into both Tunbridge Wells (West) and Lewes via Oxted. Additionally, BML2 includes constructing Ashcombe tunnel (1.5 miles / 2.4km) beneath the South Downs to provide fast, direct access into the City of Brighton and Hove via Falmer. Thus, the all-important second route to the Sussex Coast is achieved and delivers all the much-needed additional capacity which is required. Altogether, Eastbourne, Seaford, Newhaven, Lewes, Brighton, Bexhill, Hastings, etc, would equally gain an additional, direct fast main line to London and beyond. Consequently, in its entirety, this would see former Chancellor George Osborne’s aspiration of greater additional capacity between the Sussex Coast and the capital.

 

In recent months particular interest in BML2 has been shown within Canary Wharf. This is because subsequent enhancements to the original concept have substantially increased its potential. Precise details are expected to be disclosed in the coming weeks, but the plan would provide superior connections in the Stratford area and bring many benefits.

 

In his response, Simon Kirby issued a press release saying: “Following a meeting last week with the BML2 Project Group, I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling asking him to consider holding a meeting with them in early January. I believe that this project could be a long-term solution to resolving some of the problems on the existing line.”

 

Perhaps appropriately, BML2 has been described as a project to deliver ‘a railway that works for everyone’ – be they top executives, everyday hard-pressed commuters or off-peak travellers. The railway is a critical element to a successful thriving economy, especially in such an overcrowded part of the country where it remains the supreme mass-mover of people.

 

Equally supportive is Lewes MP Maria Caulfield who wrote an erudite and powerful article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph. After commenting that Government intervention was long overdue on the current Southern dispute, she moved on to the fundamental problem of worn-out infrastructure struggling to cope with twenty-first century demand. Echoing the previous Chancellor’s assessment she declared: “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 Mainline 1, making it easier to upgrade and maintain those creaking old tracks.”

 

She went on to tell its readers: “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.”

 

Ending the industrial action, monitoring performance, investing in upgrades and building a new main line, was, she declared, the way forward – “Taken together, this is a blueprint for bringing efficient harmony back to the network which links some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside with our thriving capital.”

 

Just as appreciative of the crucial role which BML2 could play in the south is Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas who has been piling pressure on the Government to release the long-anticipated and very overdue £100k study begun last year. Tabling further questions in the House of Commons this month over when the Government might oblige, Caroline was despatched the following answer from HM Treasury on 1 Dec: “The former Chancellor commissioned the London South Coast Rail Corridor Study in 2015, which looks at the region’s rail transport needs broadly. The Study considers the case for investment in the Brighton Main Line, re-opening the Lewes-Uckfield line, as well as the ‘BML2’ concept, for a new mainline to London. The Government will publish the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study, and its response to the recommendations, in due course.”

 

It has also been reported that Secretary of State Chris Grayling acknowledged the report had been on the table for far too long and promised that he would publish its findings very soon.

 

All-party support is also promised with long-standing BML2 champion Lord Bassam of Brighton offering to assist within London and the Houses of Parliament as the groundswell of backing behind the south’s premier project increases.

 

Meanwhile an Open Letter to Chris Grayling is being circulated among the region’s councils urging “the Government to follow the Chancellor’s lead in taking this project seriously and doing all it can to deliver BML2 as soon as possible.”  

As we approach 2017 and with international investment lapping on our shores, there could never be a better time to roll out the carpet and show that Britain really is – ‘Open for Business’.

 



You can also listen to Cllr Michael Lunn and BML2 project manager Brian Hart talking about BML2 on Uckfield FM

 

 

 

 

 

Department for Transport denies indecisiveness over ‘capacity time bomb’

 

Crush time on Southern

 

 Demand for rail travel has far outstripped available capacity –
the Government needs to sanction BML2 without further prevarication.


The Department for Transport has denied it is deliberately delaying publication of the long-awaited London & South Coast Rail Study. However, City of Brighton & Hove MPs, Caroline Lucas and Peter Kyle, have lost patience with the Government over what they perceive to be reluctance in releasing this long-overdue report. The primary purpose of the analysis is to determine whether a second main line (BML2) is needed between the capital and the Sussex Coast.

 

Instigated by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, the costly £100k Treasury-funded study, carried out by London-based consultants WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff, was deemed urgent and was originally ordered to be delivered to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin before the end of last year. In January, Rail Minister Claire Perry told MPs publication would be in early spring, although a few months later she resigned her unhappy ministerial position following the horrendous ‘summer of discontent’ across Southern services. MPs were then told it would appear this autumn.

 

With the situation on the railways worsening and exasperated by a lack of progress, Green MP Caroline Lucas recently tabled a Commons Question, specifically asking Transport Minister Paul Maynard if he will: “publish the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study” as well as:  “whether he plans to fund proposals for a Brighton Mainline 2 in order to remedy the significant capacity and performance constraints identified.”

 

The written answer she received blandly read: “The Government will publish the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study, and its response to the recommendations, in due course.” Unimpressed, Caroline Lucas, who consistently fights very hard on behalf of Brighton commuters, roundly condemned the response as “rubbish”.

 

Equally frustrated at the apparent prevarication was Hove’s Labour MP Peter Kyle. He told the City’s Argus newspaper: “We’ve had a new Chancellor, new Rail Minister and new Government since they first promised this report and still passengers suffer every day. As well as doing everything I can to get the current mess sorted out, I am pressing the Government to deal with the long-term capacity time bomb that will explode on to the next generation of passengers if we don’t get this right. I’m calling for this report to be released before Christmas at the very latest.”

 

It is believed the consultants delivered their report to the Government quite some months ago, whilst the Department for Transport confirmed to Peter Kyle that the study had, in fact, been completed. However, the DfT insisted that the findings were now being “carefully considered by ministers”. Even though a publication date for the long-delayed report has still not been announced, a source has indicated it would be on 23 November as part of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement.

 

We have since heard that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Tunbridge Wells MP the Rt Hon Greg Clark, is to write to Rail Minister Paul Maynard for an explanation.

 

In a similar development, the DfT responded to one of Southern’s Uckfield Line commuters, who spontaneously wrote to the Secretary of State the Rt Hon Chris Grayling over the desperate need for BML2 to happen. Completely putting to one side the current industrial unrest, William Harrison outlined the never-ending problems he endures across the South, fundamentally caused by an insufficient network which needs heavy investment and enlarging. Particularly stressful for him is Southern turning back its delayed evening peak trains at Crowborough and short of their Uckfield destination. Everyone is asked to leave the train, including of course William and his faithful guide dog Texan. This practice allows the delayed service to head back to London on time – and thus without penalty to train operator Southern.

 

The DfT told William what he already knew – that Brighton lost its secondary main line when the short Lewes–Uckfield section was closed in 1969. It should also be pointed out that, at the same time, Tunbridge Wells lost its direct main line to London via Oxted. As the DfT mentioned, this left only a skeleton service between Sussex and Kent (Eridge–Tonbridge) which was withdrawn in 1985. Consequently, the South East lost two very important strategic main lines. The capacity crises now affecting both the Brighton and Tunbridge Wells/Tonbridge main lines are a direct result of these foolish closures.

 

The DfT acknowledged: “Local aspirations to reopen the line are long-standing and well understood by Government and the rail industry. People face considerable frustration in moving between the towns by road, whether by car or public transport.”

 

However, the response went on to say: “The key challenge with reopening the [Wealden] line is that it would involve significant construction costs and the local demand and wider benefits would be potentially insufficient to make the scheme economically and financially viable.”

 

This is a deplorably poor response; identical to all the tired excuses which have been made time and again over forty years for shamefully ignoring the South East and doing nothing. It indicates that the DfT imagines this is a local problem, confined to the borders of Sussex and Kent. More worryingly it demonstrates they still can’t see the wood for the trees and have precious little grasp of the fundamental problems.

 

If demand is so low, why has strong and unrelenting public support for these strategic rail connections to be restored been sustained throughout four decades? Why have innumerable serious studies been conducted into reinstating the routes – by British Rail (1971); Network SouthEast (1987); Railtrack (2000); Connex (2001); Network Rail (2008)? Why have numerous consultants such as Atkins; Buchanan; Steer Davies Gleave; Intermodality; Bride Parks; Mott MacDonald – and now WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff been hired to produce substantial reports?

 

This issue has been a festering sore for almost half a century – a fact highlighted by ex-Chancellor George Osborne when he courageously spoke up for the South by rightly defining Sussex as: “a part of the country so often ignored or left behind under previous Governments.”

 

The DfT’s letter to William continued: “In 2015, in recognition that further work is needed, the former Chancellor commissioned the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study, which looks broadly at the region’s rail transport needs. The Study considers the case for investment in the Brighton Main Line, re-opening the Wealden line and the Lewes–Uckfield line, as well as the ‘BML2’ concept, for a new mainline to London.”

 

So this month we may discover whether the Government intends kicking this particular can yet further down the road, or whether it understands the widespread benefits of BML2 and is prepared to back the project. The DfT concluded: “Our response to the Study will need to account for rail investment priorities across the country. Later this year, the rail industry will present its initial advice on investment needs for the national network, for 2019 onwards. On the basis of this advice, Government intends to articulate its emerging priorities for improvements to the national network during 2017. The Government will publish the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study, and its response to the recommendations, in due course.”

 

There is no need for further prevarication, dithering or indecision. This long-ignored crisis is now on our doorstep – quite honestly what further evidence do we need? Firm, clear-sighted and decisive action must now be taken. Lord Adonis, Chairman of the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission succinctly summed it up in 2013: “It is stark staring obvious that the second main line to London in needed. Substantially increasing capacity into our cities remains the industry’s greatest challenge. BML2 – by reconnecting Brighton with London as one seamless journey – has the potential to do this. It is therefore a strong contender for serious investment because it would strengthen the existing overloaded network.”

 

After nearly fifty years – what more evidence do we need?

 

 

NEW GOVERNMENT MUST BUILD BML2 WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY

 

You’ll be lucky to get a space to stand!

 

A  seat?!! – You’ll be lucky to get a space to stand!

 


 

An increasing number of business leaders, politicians and commuters are calling on the Government to create the sorely-needed second main line between London and Brighton. As we reported in July, the new Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has long been aware of the growing problem and overall lack of rail capacity in the south. Equally aware was recently-departed Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who last year personally commissioned a £100k full-scale study into the Brighton Main Line 2 Project – which is still to be published.  

 

On top of the worsening capacity crisis in Sussex – famously described by Network Rail as having ‘the most congested routes in the UK’ – we have had the worst disruption in decades. The industrial dispute has been badly handled and it seems there is no end in sight, but even if this was amicably resolved tomorrow, the fundamental problems and weaknesses in the south’s rail system will remain.

 

The South’s economy, too, has suffered enormously. Seasonal trade in coastal towns has plummeted, whilst the cost to London and its commuters has been severe, both commercially and in individual terms. The Leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton & Hove City Council, Cllr Geoffrey Theobald OBE, has expressed profound dismay as he says the City is on the cusp of so many exciting developments with investment in such attractions as the British Airways i360; campus expansion and development of a biomedical centre at Sussex University; a new conference centre; as well as Brighton & Hove Albion possibly making the Premier League next season.

 

BML2 would of course provide direct London services to Sussex University and the AMEX stadium but, most of all, relieve the terribly overcrowded and overburdened adjacent Brighton Line. “Yet, as the city grows in importance and population, the current rail service cannot cope, even if the trains are running perfectly, let alone for the future” says the Conservative Leader.

 

“To me these are some of the many reasons why we are crying out for an additional Brighton to London mainline – BML2” he adds. As he pointed out, BML2 would also directly benefit the heavily-populated towns along the Sussex Coastal strip. It would also improve rail services from busy key commuter towns, such as Horsham in West Sussex and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

 

Geoffrey Theobald declared: “Fundamentally it’s about providing far more capacity into the network so that more trains can operate and hardworking people can rely on getting to work on time, comfortably and without delays. They may even get a seat!”

 

This view is shared by the Labour Party’s Leader Jeremy Corbyn who, when famously complaining he couldn’t find a seat, quite rightly said: “The reality is there are not enough trains – we need more of them”. Indeed we do. However, Mr Corbyn was lucky to find a corner in which to sit on the floor. On a regular basis Southern commuters think themselves fortunate if they find a space to stand and can actually clamber onto some services where the doors – operated by the driver or the guard – can just about be closed.

 

It seems yet more misery for Brighton Line commuters is the realization of reduced seating on the new Govia Thameslink trains, now coming into service. The Guardian recently highlighted the plight of long-distance Thameslink train travellers who are forced to stand for over an hour or even more. Those who do find one of the new narrower seats were dismayed there were no small fold-down tables for a laptop. Over two years ago, we warned about such metro-style conditions for long distance commuters http://www.bml2.co.uk/the-news/156-story-stand-up-for-the-brighton-line.html but nobody seemed bothered. As more of these ‘cattle-class trains’, as they’ve been described, come into service, bear in mind that they rely on the same old inadequate and heavily-overburdened system which needs radical investment.

 

Unfortunately, here in the South East, we can’t operate more trains as Jeremy Corbyn proposes – because we no longer have a big enough railway.  Drastically cut back over decades by both Labour and Conservative administrations, successive Governments have so far – and despite pre-election promises to fix it – have resisted reopening any strategically useful lines here.

 

Instead, they remain fixated on pursuing controversial and hugely expensive high-speed schemes elsewhere. However, while the South’s beleaguered network creaks ever nearer towards looming gridlock, HS2 now appears to be falling out of favour, certainly among business commentators and serious investors. Only a few days ago Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General, one of Britain’s largest funders of infrastructure projects, urged Theresa May to walk away from HS2, warning “You can have big projects, but they have got to be the right big projects.”

 

Correspondents to the London Evening Standard have also said BML2 “needs to happen soon” – going on to outline its simplicity and relative ease of construction, whilst delivering massive economic and social benefits for the region and the millions who live here.

 

Brighton’s Conservative Leader described BML2 as “the only solution” and said he would wait with bated breath the new feasibility study commissioned by George Osborne and hoped that “the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will have the same interest as his predecessor in building a new main line in the south.” Confidence was also expressed in the appointment of Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby to Economic Secretary to the Treasury in Theresa May’s new Government, citing how Simon has been a vocal and long-standing supporter of BML2.

 

In praising BML2’s ability to offer so much opportunity for growth and prosperity across London and the South East, Geoffrey Theobald encouraged investors to bear in mind “Theresa May has been clear that post-Brexit Britain is open for business and investment on a global scale.”

 

He concluded by expressing the wishes of all of us by saying: “Whitehall must therefore grasp the nettle and move forward with BML2 without any more delay.”  

 

 

 

 

TIME FOR NEW MAIN LINES IN THE SOUTH

Overcrowded Southern Train

 

The new Government’s biggest challenge – building BML2 for more trains into London.


 

The political turmoil of the past few weeks has been phenomenal. We’re on our way out of the EU; we have a new prime minister and, within the last few days, we have a whole new government team. Amid all this, there is one consistency – the railways remain in deep crisis.

 

Here in the south there is virtual mutiny among commuters; large-scale and vociferous protests at Southern’s stations and London termini; whilst widespread discontent, frustration and sheer anger is being expressed at what’s going on. Calls for GoVia to be stripped of its Southern and Southeastern franchises are being made daily; petitions are flying around and placards are being waved. MPs have been demanding swift and decisive action from Rail Minister Claire Perry – who asserted that changing the train operator would solve nothing – and now even she has thrown in the towel and resigned.

 

The fundamental problems run far deeper than most people realize, whilst nobody seems to have a clue what to do. Having created a monster franchise in the first place, the Department for Transport is keeping its collective head down in case anyone starts apportioning blame at their door. In this fragmented mess there seems to be no overall control – and it is those ordinary ‘hard-working people’ (whom the outgoing David Cameron claimed to champion) who are suffering on a daily basis. Make no mistake; even if the current industrial dispute was solved tomorrow, the underlying situation will get even worse.

 

At the very least, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, must demonstrate the same interest as his predecessor George Osborne in building new main lines in the south, as proposed by the Brighton Main Line 2 Project (BML2). Whatever Osborne’s faults or merits, he clearly recognized the intrinsic potential of the project to solve the horrendous crisis in the London and South East network.

Fortunately, Theresa May has already made her first good move by appointing Chris Grayling as Secretary of State for Transport. He is more than aware of the problems on the Brighton Line as, exactly a decade ago, on 21 July 2006, he wrote to the Wealden Line Campaign saying: “I can understand your interest in the scheme and appreciate the potential benefits of opening up the line to the South Coast through Uckfield.”

 

This was followed in May 2007 when, as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, he wrote about the Conservative’s plan to protect certain key disused rail lines, with the Uckfield line being one of the top four they were most interested in. What Chris Grayling said ten years ago is even truer today: “There are towns and cities up and down the country where transport systems are bursting at the seams and it makes sense to protect old transport corridors from development. Too many developments are being planned without adequate provision for local infrastructure. In many cases, disused railway lines provide corridors into city and town centres. We want to make sure that there is adequate protection for potential public transport routes to help ensure that our towns and cities grow in sustainable ways.”

 

Even back in 2007, when Labour was in Government, the Conservatives recognized the route’s value as the Grayling document said the Uckfield line: “– could act as a valuable relief line for the [Brighton] main line to the south coast from London.” Other recent Transport Ministers such as Justine Greening and Teresa Villiers have both confirmed it as “a viable proposition” as well as “an issue of high importance”. So why, year after year, does nothing ever happen? Why is no one bold enough to make these political decisions?

      

Given the fundamental lack of capacity, unreliability and daily chaos on the South’s rail network, no one is remotely interested in hearing about the new Government’s commitment to ensuring the mega-expensive and highly controversial HS2 goes ahead, come what may. Instead, it is now time for Theresa May to instruct the DfT to release Osborne’s Treasury-funded study into the BML2 Rail Project conducted by consultants WSP|Parsons Brinkerhoff.

 

It is also an opportune moment for Mrs May (whom we genuinely wish the best of luck) to invite high-profile investors around the table. The private business sector, both in the UK and overseas, has repeatedly expressed its keen and serious interest in participating by investing in worthy major infrastructure projects such as transport. However, reticence has noticeably been expressed when it comes to grandiose schemes such as HS2.

 

Also appointed to the new team is Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby, who received a call from Prime Minister Theresa May at the weekend, offering him a Ministerial position as Economic Secretary to the Treasury in her new Government.

 

Simon Kirby has been a long-standing supporter of BML2 and we hope he will use his influence in his new post. Following a meeting with us in 2012 he said: “I was pleased to meet with representatives from the Brighton Main Line 2 campaign recently. As they know I am a supporter of their cause, and I was grateful to them for meeting with me to discuss this issue. They have made the argument that a second main line is the only realistic and cost effective means of overcoming the existing capacity problems that are clear to us all.”

 

We have been assured that Brexit will not affect investment in BML2 and we have every reason to believe this is true. That’s because thirty years ago, in 1986, the Wealden Line Campaign modestly sought the reinstatement of the 7-mile ‘missing link’ between Uckfield and Lewes to create another railway route between the Sussex Coast and London. This was ready to proceed at a cost of £6m (yes – £6m!) by British Rail which was allowed to put up 25% if the remainder was forthcoming from outside funders. The MEP for East Sussex at that time, Sir Jack Stewart-Clark, raised everyone’s hopes of European funding. But not a penny, let alone a cent, came our way – it all went to build super highways in Spain, Italy and France.

 

As Sussex MPs at a recent Select Committee meeting grilling Southern despaired: “Someone needs to get a grip”. This doesn’t mean just solving the current industrial dispute so we can return to our normal daily chaos of cancellations, late-running services, staff shortages, signalling problems, point failures, train breakdowns, etc. It means inviting investors to step up to the table to declare their interest by investing in building the new main lines proposed by BML2.

 

Fundamentally it’s all about providing far more capacity into the network so more trains can operate whereby all those ‘hard working people’ can rely on getting to work on time, comfortably and without delays. Transport is a pivotal element of a successful economy such as London, whilst nothing facilitates growth, prosperity and regeneration more than a new railway.

 

Post Brexit, so many new and exciting opportunities await this nation, which is now declaring itself open for business and investment on a global scale. BML2 is one enormously valuable transport scheme which offers so much opportunity for growth and prosperity across London and the South East – it has to be grabbed with both hands – and without any more delay.

 

 

 

COMPELLING CASE FOR BML2 EXPECTED IN AUTUMN

Sussex Mainline Lost in 1969 

The main line Sussex lost in 1969 – now a compelling case.
Photo courtesy John Wenham


 

Brighton and Hove Conservative Group Leader, Councillor Geoffrey Theobald has expressed his dismay and disappointment at the recent criticism from both the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties in East Sussex of the campaign to secure a second Brighton to London rail mainline.

 

As a strong supporter of BML2 for a number of years, Cllr Theobald has been very public with his view that it is a vital missing piece in the jigsaw of an efficient and integrated sustainable transport system in the south-east of England, bringing not only enormous economic benefits to Brighton & Hove and the wider Greater Brighton area, but also a quick and reliable alternative for when the existing Brighton mainline requires maintenance or encounters problems. Inconvenience that residents from Worthing to Eastbourne and long-suffering commuters are all too familiar with.

 

In the House of Lords on 29 February Baroness Randerson (Lib Dem) asked: “My Lords, there has been a vigorous campaign to reinstate the rail link between Uckfield and Lewes, which would provide better access to employment in Brighton from the Weald and an additional, badly-needed route between the Sussex coast and London. The coalition funded some studies into this, but the current Government has not given any firm commitment. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government has plans for action on this and does he accept that the regeneration is needed now, not some time in the future, as indicated, possibly 2030 and beyond?”

 

Lib Dem ESCC Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre, who opposes BML2 and supports reopening a railway line between Lewes and Uckfield only, said “People in Sussex are forced to live with one of the worst performing railway networks in the country”. She called upon Lewes MP Maria Caulfield “to be honest with commuters.”

 

Maria Caulfield responded swiftly: “Once again the Lib Dems have got it wrong in assuming I have taken little interest or action on the terrible rail service in the constituency. As far as I am concerned there was no baton to pass on due to the lack of action by Norman Baker”. She told the Sussex Express that the broader and extensive London & South Coast Study, ordered by the Chancellor George Osborne last year, and which he promised would include BML2, will be published this autumn. Furthermore, she was optimistic it would be favourable.

 

This prompted a frankly astonishing attack, from a Labour Councillor from Hastings speaking at an East Sussex County Council Cabinet meeting. Cllr Godfrey Daniels told members reinstating the Lewes–Uckfield line was “a piece of madness” and urged the council not to be diverted by “mythical plans”. He suggested electrifying and redoubling sections of the Hastings–Ashford line would be a worthier project.

 

Not unexpectedly, Cllr Daniels’ opposition found warm favour with the County Council’s Director of Communities, Economy and Transport, Rupert Clubb, who gladly reminded cabinet that the 2008 Study, steered by ESCC and which considered opening only Lewes to Uckfield, concluded a poor business case and therefore “did not offer value for money”.

 

It’s worth pointing out that Hastings–Ashford already enjoys modern, air-conditioned trains operating a fast hourly service. Compare this to the fast-growing Weald where replacement bus services have been in operation for over 47 years between Crowborough/Uckfield, Brighton/Lewes.

 

Brighton’s Cllr Theobald said “It is very sad that an East Sussex Lib Dem Councillor has taken to the press to criticise Lewes MP, Maria Caulfield, for so-called Government ‘inaction’ over BML2. This really is a bit rich coming from a colleague of ex-MP Norman Baker who did absolutely nothing as a Lib Dem in Government, when he was a Transport Minister, to champion BML2’s cause – in fact, quite the opposite. By stark contrast, as Maria has quite rightly pointed out, under this Conservative Government, George Osborne has provided £100,000 funding for a new feasibility study into BML2 which is due to report in the autumn.”

 

Re-opening Lewes–Uckfield is a central part of the much greater BML2 project launched in 2010, aimed at solving severe capacity problems. Norman Baker was given priority to spearhead BML2 just prior to his election to Government in May 2010, but instead peddled complete untruths about the project. He first claimed it “bypassed Lewes” and, when this didn’t work, he suggested it would “tunnel under the town with all the disruption that would cause”. His attempt to discredit his successor, who spoke in favour of BML2, eventually backfired on him, whilst Lewes Lib Dems were obliged to admit the claims were false.

 

With regard to Hastings–Ashford being electrified in preference, the Leader of the Brighton Conservative Group Cllr Theobald said such comments were “short-sighted” adding “this may well be a beneficial project for his [Cllr Daniels] constituents but it would do absolutely nothing to solve the chronic overcrowding and capacity issues between the Greater Brighton area and London”.

 

Brighton’s Cllr Theobald told the BML2 Project Group: “I remain hopeful that BML2 will get the green light from the Government in the near future. George Osborne has consistently demonstrated his commitment to serious transport infrastructure projects in recent years such as HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2. And in the end, I think that he will be convinced by the economic case for BML2 which in my view, is compelling and was the main reason why it was included in our recent Greater Brighton devolution bid to Government.”  

 

 

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”.

 

 

 

SOUTH’S NEW MAIN LINE GATHERS PACE

 

Missing Link

 

A wasting asset closed in 1969 and just several miles in length – the South’s most notorious ‘missing link’.

 


 

Moves to create the south’s new main line into London are gathering pace. Three distinct developments have occurred in the past few weeks which have propelled the Brighton Main Line 2 project further forward.

 

The Bow Group, the intellectual Conservative think tank, has published Reviving Britain’s Railways, urging Government to be less obsessed with HS2 and instead start building high-impact schemes to deliver more capacity into the UK rail network. Citing disastrous rail closures carried out in the 1960s which need urgent attention, the Bow Group Report focuses on the South East’s most notorious:

 

‘Commuters are crammed together as they battle to get to work in the capital. However, by coincidence, a parallel line used to run from London to Brighton – and whilst it now ends part way through Sussex, £350m would see the Wealden Line revived and the opening of Brighton Main Line 2. That would be the type of investment which would alleviate the woes of many commuters from Brighton to London, opening up rail capacity, and providing an effective service which could be fit for the future. The suggested overall project for the Wealden Line would even go further. As well as the Brighton Main Line 2, the campaign group behind the proposals would see a branch connection to Tunbridge Wells, and the opening of smaller lines in South London. The scheme, which has been supported by the Brighton & Hove Conservative Group Leader and local Conservative MP Simon Kirby, could transform rail travel across Sussex. It could also begin to address some of the connectivity issues which make travel a logistical challenge if trying to reach a station on a different main route, without travelling to London and back out again.’

 

This report follows George Osborne’s personal intervention this summer of ordering a full investigation into BML2 as well as his appointment of Lord Adonis to head the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). Andrew Adonis is a close friend and party associate of Lord Steve Bassam of Brighton – a keen and longstanding proponent of BML2 who speaks passionately about the need to revive Brighton’s second main line.

 

Resigning the Labour Whip in the House of Lords in order to chair the NIC, Lord Adonis is now perfectly placed to push BML2 to the very heart of the commission as an easily deliverable scheme initiating the Chancellor’s plan to get Britain building. Only two years ago, Lord Adonis proclaimed it was: “stark staring obvious that the second mainline to London is needed”. His thinking has now been echoed by the Conservative’s Bow Group because in 2013 he declared:  “The loss of Brighton's second main line via Uckfield and the direct London services it provided was a massive error of the 1960s. It needs to be reversed.”

 

At that time, Lord Adonis helpfully explained his strategy: “Substantially increasing capacity into our cities remains the industry's greatest challenge. Brighton Main Line 2, by reconnecting Brighton with London as one seamless journey, has the potential to do this and is therefore a strong contender for serious investment because it would strengthen the existing overloaded network.”

 

In other developments, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin delivered the Terms of Reference for the £100k ‘London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study’, specifically sanctioned by George Osborne. The DfT’s Terms of Reference for the Study are both extensive and demanding. It begins: ‘The Brighton Main Line (BML) is a critical link in rail travel between London and the South Coast. However, known network infrastructure constraints compromise the on-time performance of services along this corridor; metrics such as the Public Performance Measure are below the national average’ [late-running trains].

 

Commendably acknowledging the growing problem, it says: ‘Given strong ongoing demand for rail services between London and the South Coast, the Government will appoint a consultant to evaluate the strategic case for investment in existing and new rail capacity along this corridor.’

 

The contract has since been awarded to WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff (WSP PB). With time of the utmost essence, key representatives from the BML2 Project Group were last week invited to the consultants’ London headquarters to give a presentation on the scheme to WSP PB’s appointed Project Director, Project Manager and Technical Lead in what was a wide-ranging and scrutinising meeting.

 

The time allowed for the report is extremely short (before Christmas) whilst three categories are specified: Part A – Demand for services; Part B – Proposals to address demand and their feasibility; and Part C – the priorities for investment in the short, medium and long term.

 

Part A will look at demand based on rail industry projections as well as housing and commercial developments now taking place. In this respect, WSP PB is meeting local authorities, as well as those industries critically affected by the BML, notably Gatwick Airport.

 

Part B will consider the currently proposed modifications to the BML (and associated routes) by Network Rail, Transport for London, etc. This section also calls for a full description for ‘entirely new or largely new lines between the South Coast and London, including concepts such as BML2’.

 

In consideration of building the second main line between the capital and the Sussex coast, the consultants are being asked to investigate its feasibility; how it would respond to demand; its design factors (including the new route’s interaction with current lines); the availability of land and if there are any tunnelling constraints.

 

This section must also consider operational impacts, journey time savings, passenger flows into London terminals and resilience benefits offered by BML2 in times of disruption. Costs are also expected to be assessed, whilst the Government is also interested to learn to what extent the private sector might be willing to participate in building these new rail links.

 

Part C aims to determine priorities, ranging from the short (5-10 years); to medium (10-20 years); to long term (20+ years). Any potential conflicts between these priorities will also need to be assessed and resolved.

 

A 90-minute BML2 presentation to WSP PB featured current problems afflicting both the Brighton and Tonbridge main lines and the extraordinary high demand which is rapidly pushing these routes deeper into crisis. It was explained that its three phases (Sussex, Kent and London) are interdependent, but range widely in engineering complexity and cost. The Sussex Phase is straightforward in engineering terms and would immediately deliver wide-scale benefits right from the day it opens. Absolutely nothing can be gained by delaying its implementation any longer, but there is much to lose, particularly in terms of the South’s economy – as many others have pointed out.

 

WSP PB was told the same applies to Kent, which would regain its second main line between Tunbridge Wells and London, so regrettably closed in 1969. This would simultaneously restore regional connections to Brighton and the Sussex Coast – and deliver those “immense local benefits” mentioned by Lord Adonis in 2013. Besides providing realistic relief to the increasingly overloaded Tonbridge Main Line, this phase will open up strategic twenty-first century routes directly into the capital’s financial heartland.

 

It was then explained the London Phase is unquestionably the most multifaceted and costly to deliver; however, its commercial and social value would far exceed its capital outlay. This phase would reap the highest rewards, not just in terms of passenger benefits, but economic regeneration and growth across East London and its business centre at Canary Wharf. A particular BML2 bonus (also termed ‘Thameslink 2’) must be taken into account –  its ability to remove vast quantities of unwanted central London congestion from London Bridge, Blackfriars, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, etc.

 

Gatwick and Stansted airports would be particular beneficiaries with direct, faster and increased connections to Canary Wharf, Stratford International and Crossrail. Linking these two London airports seamlessly together with one dedicated fast rail service through East London would be possible with BML2. Building such fundamental infrastructure is critically important in terms of securing both airports’ future well-being and prosperity – especially if London Heathrow is granted expansion through a third runway.

 

We have a rail network struggling to manage demand; public clamour for more train services and better journeys; a private sector keen to invest in infrastructure; and a Chancellor keen to get Britain building again.

 

There’s never been a better time to start building BML2.