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Latest 2018 BML2 Project Publication

Design2158 What BML2 will do for

Kent and Tunbridge wells

The 14pp report can be downloaded for viewing and printing by clicking on the image. Please circulate to friends and colleagues and if appropriate, to local Tunbridge Wells and Kent councillors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South East demands a bigger trainset

 

rubbish at Brighton Station

 

Creaking at the seams – the South East rail network needs radical expansion


This year the not-so-merry month of May brought predictable chaos on the Brighton Line during engineering occupations, ‘Meltdown Monday’ and continuing problems with Govia Thameslink’s rescheduling. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling furiously called the situation “wholly unsatisfactory”.

 

Most rail users know the current network across London and the South East simply cannot cope and needs radical expansion. Incredibly, calls for the restoration of former main lines in Sussex and Kent have persisted for almost 50 years when British Rail’s once-busy routes were so recklessly destroyed. Such turmoil will continue unabated – especially when no trains will operate for nine consecutive days in October between Brighton and Three Bridges – and again in February 2019. Nevertheless, a business case cannot be made solely on alternative routes in times of need, even though this is one extremely beneficial aspect of BML2.

 

With keen interest in the project being expressed by Chris Grayling, the government has responded with its ‘Market Led Proposals’ for transport. Alongside fully-booked seminars in London and Birmingham, a document has been published.

 

Mr Grayling explained: “We want to work with the private sector to identify investment opportunities for transport needs where the schemes fit best with the department and wider government’s priorities, and support the government’s strategic vision for rail.”

 

Clearly mindful of the limitations of the public purse, he continued: “By involving a more diverse range of parties including promoters, financial investors or a consortium of such parties, we want to enable new and innovative approaches to meeting community needs and reduce the call on taxpayers by building commercially sustainable transport businesses.”

 

In a direct invitation to potential funders he declared: “The department is keen to engage with promoters and investors of market-led proposals”. However, he fully appreciates investors will need assurances on financial return for such investment and the risks involved, whilst government will demand that such projects achieve overall network objectives.

 

The DfT document is open-minded and earnestly welcomes investors and consortia to come forward to: ‘Increase overall investment in the railway’. The government wants to: ‘Open up the development and delivery of rail infrastructure to take full advantage of new and innovative ideas’ and says emphatically: ‘By taking full advantage of innovative ideas that could have wider benefits or better economics, we want to encourage and facilitate proposals’. It hopes investors will be: ‘more likely to identify commercial opportunities that contribute to funding.’

 

As we recently reported, BML2’s backers have already said they can keep project costs and risks off the Treasury’s books.

 

Acknowledging the rail industry doesn’t have all the answers the document continues: ‘Government is keen to encourage new partners for infrastructure design, development and delivery.’

 

The government wants this initiative to deliver all the critical facets which BML2’s supporters say will accrue, viz: ‘Increased network capacity (e.g. reduction in overcrowding or increase in tonnage); Increased connectivity; Improved network reliability and resilience’. The DfT points to businesses which have already assisted funding transport infrastructure, for example Canary Wharf Group’s contribution to Crossrail.

 

BML2’s London Phase will facilitate huge traffic flows and reduce congestion at London Bridge and on the Thameslink route. This month the long-established Chinese company ABP London ‘topped-out’ the first phase of its massive Royal Albert Docks redevelopment. Its Chief Operating Officer John Miu said: “When the whole thing’s finished it will be the new heart of east London – it will turn into the high-tech gateway between Europe and Asia.” Alongside high-tech there will be commercial, residential, retail and parkland development. He explained: “We tap into many different international markets – not just Asia, China and Hong Kong but the Middle East, Singapore and locally in the UK and Europe”. There is enormous excitement and unwavering confidence in the UK and no anxiety over Brexit. Indeed, ABP’s representatives predict: “Royal Docks will become one of the most successful business districts in London.”

 

Simultaneously and just along the river, British Land is building a £2bn ‘new town’ in Docklands between the City and Canary Wharf with a new high street and a piazza the size of Leicester Square. Investment is pouring into what is rapidly becoming central London where a booming Canary Wharf population will rise from 120,000 to 200,000.

 

Similarly pertinent to BML2 is the recent publication of Network Rail’s South East Route Strategic Plan. Although this has been criticized for glossing over unpalatable reading, its honesty is commendable, even though it tells us what many of us have known for decades:
‘The infrastructure on South East route (outside of the central Thameslink areas) is amongst the oldest in the country, a position which has been worsened by deferral of [recent] renewals.’ Network Rail freely admits this has led to poor performance, high-impact failures, whereby major repairs and structural replacements are overdue on such a busy system.


‘It is now clear that years of under-investment sits behind these factors’ – a failure we know harks back to the 1960s.

 

The authors highlight the South’s network extreme complexity – ‘12 of Britain’s 15 busiest flat junctions are on South East route; this means that small delays have a far-reaching impact.’ We all know how busy lines in London and the South East have become: ‘Passenger and freight demand has grown significantly over the past 10 years and expectations are for this trend to continue. This puts further pressure on the infrastructure and services, which are amongst the heaviest used - and of the highest criticality - in the country.’

 

What they’ve yet to concede is that we desperately need a bigger trainset.

 

To those who believe the South East gets everything, Network Rail points out that the South East route experienced the lowest levels of renewals expenditure (54% below the national average) and is amongst the lowest levels of maintenance expenditure (21% below national average). ‘The railway has been stretched to its limit, assets are ageing, and it is therefore unsurprising that performance levels are unsatisfactory.’

 

The report warns: ‘As demand continues to grow, there will be a need for increased capacity. The Brighton Mainline, in particular, is forecast to experience the joint highest overall levels of crowding of all London commuter routes. If action is not taken, this is forecast to lead to regular standing extending as far as the Sussex coast.’

 

The report talks about a ‘challenging operating environment’ whereas the promise of jam tomorrow is the so-called digital railway. Trains using the Thameslink core through London will henceforth operate a ‘metro-style frequency, controlled automatically but with driver supervision. Computer modelling predicts services will feed in from right across the network and run through Blackfriars at intervals of every 150 seconds. Perhaps if they had digital customers this might work, whilst no one has yet explained how everyday incidents such as train breakdowns; signalling faults; point failures; poor rail conditions; trespass incidents; bridge-strikes; lack of crew; ‘congestion in the London area’; inclement weather; passengers delaying services for a myriad of reasons, and so on, can ever be overcome to make this work. With railway operation it only takes one spanner in the works …..

 

We think it is faced with the sheer impossible when it says: ‘In order to support a route-wide metro-style operation, every service running on the network is required to be dependable and punctual’ – does anyone seriously believe that will happen?

 

Consequently they intend overloading the Brighton main line with even more services, but this will only increase the strain. This still leaves the Sussex Coast with no secondary route to alleviate the increasingly burdensome load between coast and capital, whilst we’ll just have even more trains queued up when things go wrong. Congestion throughout London will steadily worsen, whilst the cost to businesses both small and large is never calculated.

 

Few realize that BML2 means connecting the Brighton Mainline, (Haywards Heath, Gatwick Croydon etc) to the high-tech commercial heart of the capital – Canary Wharf, Docklands, Stratford and even beyond.

 

There’s no hope for Kent either, as Network Rail’s predictions are equally dire on the Tonbridge Mainline. It says: ‘passenger numbers up to 2024 can largely be met through extending existing services to their maximum length’. But having warned that five additional peak services will soon be needed, it then makes the understatement: ‘There is little capacity for any additional services into London and when train lengthening options have been exhausted, there are no straightforward solutions.’

 

How much longer they can ignore reopening the former main line between London and Tunbridge Wells is anyone’s guess.

 

If this wasn’t bad enough, the government is demanding councils build thousands more homes hereabouts. With no closed lines reopened, or new lines built anywhere in this region outside London, the situation is beyond critical.

 

The rail industry must cease deluding everyone into thinking they can manage with the existing trainset. Serious investors are keen and willing to get involved and a proper co-operating partnership between government, investors and Network Rail to build BML2 is long overdue.

 

We need more than government ‘support’ – we need real leadership and a true sense of direction displayed.

 

 

The Grand Vision for Tunbridge Wells

 

Tunbridge Wells West Station

Rather than being a stranded and sadly redundant railway edifice harking back to the great Victorian era and now incongruously surrounded by a supermarket car park, this wonderful station should be pride of place. With its proper and intended railway role revived, no better place of arrival for visitors could be imagined, whilst it would be a superb terminus for daily commuting with the opportunity for major additional car parking facilities on site.
 
It is proposed that the opportunity could be taken to redevelop the rest of the site, wholly in agreement and in partnership with Sainsbury’s and the aspirations of the Borough Council. Far better mixed commercial/residential use of the land is possible with a hopefully new and upgraded superstore forming an intrinsic part of a revitalised new district with superior rail connections. Needless to say, the planning and design would be entirely compatible with the owners’ interests, culminating in a development best-suited to the borough and the region’s requirement for vastly-improved rail services, densification of town centre residential development and increased local parking.
 
Accordingly, from Tunbridge Wells (West) it will be possible to board direct train services to Canary Wharf. This will radically shorten and improve journeys made by thousands of commuters who currently have no choice but to waste time going into busy London Bridge - only to travel out again on the equally-busy Jubilee line.
 
In addition to this, direct services and connections with many other London destinations are currently being discussed and will be put forward as opportunities continue to be developed. Canary Wharf will enable interchange for east-west Crossrail services on the new Elizabeth line, whilst the anticipated Lewisham interchange will give easy transfer to TfL’s impending Bakerloo line extension.
 
In partnership with the private sector’s firm commitment to BML2, as well as the growing political interest being shown in the project, there needs to be a strong and commensurate involvement from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and local business interests. It would also be requisite for larger authorities, namely Kent County Council, wholeheartedly to embrace the scheme and recognize its potential in a region which is seriously impeded by intractable transport conundrums being made worse due to the county’s proximity to London. 
 
The City of Brighton & Hove has already voiced its strong support for BML2 because it appreciates the project’s Sussex Phase will bring growth, prosperity and opportunity, whilst delivering more capacity, new connections and other benefits to the South East’s hard-pressed network. 
 
Whilst there are a number of planning and engineering challenges to overcome, these are considered to be easily  within the envisaged technical scope, as well as the parameters of the business case. Representatives from the engineering sector of the corporations involved have already conducted preliminary site visits. Their knowledge and expertise have created astounding infrastructure projects across the globe on a vast scale, so it came as no surprise that they were undaunted by anything they are anticipating in engineering BML2. 
 
Other aspects must include what provision could be made for the Spa Valley Railway (SpVR) and its operations?
 
Acceptable solutions are currently being investigated.
 
It cannot be too strongly stressed that better economic health and future prosperity of Tunbridge Wells and West Kent will accrue with the success of the BML2 project, which would integrate seamlessly with TWBC’s plans for Destination Town status including attracting many more visitors to a nearby new theatre, unique and specialist shops, restaurants and a revitalized shopping centre.
 
The alternative would be a continuation of already exacerbated problems on the local and regional road and rail network, which could lead to a decline in the borough’s long term prospects and appeal.
 
This must not be allowed to happen.
 
Far more detail is contained in a new 14pp downloadable report just published by the BML2 Project Team, entitled "What BML2 will do for Kent and Tunbridge Wells". Get your copy and circulate to friends and colleagues, and if appropriate, to your local Tunbridge Wells and Kent County councillors. Just click on above image to start the download. It should be printed out in A4 Landscape format.
 
 
 

BML2 will serve capital’s ‘super hub’

City and Canary Wharf Skyline

 

“The combination of the City and Canary Wharf makes London the number-one financial centre in the world” – Sir George Iacobescu.


There is growing appreciation of the immense benefits the Brighton Main Line 2 project will deliver to London and the South East. New links north of the Thames are planned, whilst to the south the region urgently needs lots more capacity into the capital with supplementary services on revitalised main lines. As we predicted when BML2 was first launched, it would be the London Phase providing the engine to the whole scheme. Network Rail and the train operating companies agreed – “sort that out and you have a sound case” they told us. Subsequently, the project’s eastern Thames connection, designed to provide fast north-south links through Canary Wharf and Docklands, captured the interest of investors and wealth creators.

 

A few days ago in the London Evening Standard Sir George Iacobescu, chairman and chief executive of the Canary Wharf Group, the principal developer in Docklands, said: “Despite all the uncertainty there is now, I am convinced London will continue to grow and it is our duty to make it happen.” Brimming with confidence, he rightly predicted: “Ultimately, if you cast your eyes into the future, the City and Canary Wharf will become one.”

 

The area has been a phenomenal success from its small beginnings, whilst Sir George confidently declared construction would “continue for decades to come”. He is perfectly right as international investors continue to demonstrate huge confidence in the UK as the country prepares to free itself from the over-arching control of the European Union.

 

“We feel we have built a city, the number of people working here is the same as the entire population of Cambridge. Canary Wharf is already 50 per cent bigger than the financial centre of Frankfurt.”


It is calculated that business here generates over £36bn per annum.

 

Sir George also told the newspaper that Canary Wharf had shifted London’s centre of gravity miles eastward, whilst transport links such as the Jubilee line and Docklands Light Railway had been fundamental to its success. When representatives from BML2 and its investors met at Canary Wharf tower we were shown an enormous scale model of the entire location with LED strips illuminating its transport links. Nevertheless, a north-south axis, which BML2 would provide, was glaringly absent.

 

In another development, London’s highly-influential journal Estates Gazette recently told its world-wide readership about BML2: ‘Private investors are backing a new Crossrail-style high-speed line from Stansted to Brighton which could help unlock the delivery of 100,000 homes.’ This was prompted by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s comment in the House of Commons during November that he was “very open” to the project and saying he’d be “delighted” to see the necessary routes reopened to enable it all to happen.

 

Estates Gazette usefully referred to the London Plan explaining: ‘Combined, the draft London Plan envisages nearly 100,000 new homes and 190,000 new jobs across the four locations.’ This amounts to: Lewisham, Catford, New Cross – 13,500 homes and 4,000 jobs. The Stratford Olympic legacy – 39,000 homes and 65,000 jobs. The Isle of Dogs – 29,000 homes and 110,000 jobs. The London Borough of Croydon – 14,500 homes and 10,500 jobs.

 

This is the geographical axis upon which BML2’s London Phase is planned to serve, whilst the feature explained ‘A new subterranean station underneath Wellesley Road, Croydon, would enable trains coming from the south to travel under London to Stratford and then on to Stansted, Essex.’

 

A tunnelled speedy link between Croydon and Stratford is the investors’ evaluation. They determine this to be the best solution to enable superior and much-improved connections from the south into Docklands. As Estates Gazette helpfully explained: “A north-south rail route between Canary Wharf, E14, and Stratford, E15 would include interchanges for Sussex and Kent commuters. Gatwick Airport would be just four stops from Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. The four locations for proposed new stations are at the heart of Opportunity Areas, where planning policy encourages redevelopment and intensification of uses.”

 

A statement from the investors behind BML2 made some very important points: “Over the past 12 months, the company set up to seriously advance BML2 has invested sizeable amounts of time and capital into the project and has brought together a wide spectrum of interested partners and professional services firms with the view of establishing an international project consortium.”

 

Wholly aware of the challenges ahead and the scarcity of government funding it continued:
“Our preliminary work has been focused on the conceptual viability of the project supported with a substantially new investment and financing structure that would remove both the project construction risk and the capital cost of the finished project from the government’s balance sheet.”

 

Estates Gazette had no difficulty immediately recognising the colossal benefits of BML2, saying: ‘The new line could bring huge uplifts in land values along the route, just as Crossrail has done. House prices around Crossrail locations are set to rise by 16% between 2016 and 2020, compared with just 7% across greater London, according to JLL.’ [JLL Corporate Property Management, Investment & Development]

 

Emily Williams, Research Analyst at Savills, the global real estate company, agreed and explained: “In short, better connectivity in the form of new railway lines mean better PTAL ratings [a higher PTAL means more valuable development land]. Increased densities therefore follow.” She pointed out: “Even the draft London Plan suggest the capital should make the best use of land by directing growth towards the most accessible and well-connected places. Crucially, this includes both existing and future public transport networks.”

 

Estates Gazette appreciated there was ‘little likelihood of government cash to spearhead BML2’ and rightly observed ‘significant funds from the private investors backing the project will be vital.’ Aware of the current appetite among private corporations searching hard for truly sound infrastructure projects it recognised that BML2 would ‘increase capacity from the south coast to London and enable commuters to travel direct to Canary Wharf and Stratford, locations that have seen a huge increase in homes and jobs in recent years, as well as relieving capacity issues around Victoria, SW1, and London Bridge, SE1.’

 

Whilst the London phase has understandably attracted most interest, BML2’s Sussex and Kent phases are intrinsic to its operation and success. The Brighton and Tonbridge main lines will certainly need both of the supplementary routes revived to Brighton and to Tunbridge Wells and performing beyond their previous function. Further study and discussion into realising these phases as soon as possible has been going on throughout the past six months. The intention is to have a full multi-£m technical and engineering assessment commencing as soon as practicable.

 

Discussions about reopening sections of the rail network and BML2 have occurred recently among councils in Tunbridge Wells, Lewes and Brighton. The Greater Brighton Economic Board has just backed long-standing plans to untangle one of the many bottlenecks on the Brighton main line at Windmill Bridge Junction north of East Croydon. The Board hopes to persuade the government to commit £1bn in 2019 to sort out the junction and thereby increase high-peak hour capacity. Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Jonathan Sharrock said Network Rail had acknowledged rail links to Brighton had suffered from years of underinvestment. Mr Sharrock stressed that they did not “rule out” a separate campaign for a second line but believes the Brighton Line should be tackled first. However, Brighton city councillor Geoffrey Theobald, a staunch supporter of BML2, said that although further investment was welcome on the Brighton Line, the primary objective should still be a second Brighton main line.

 

Removing bottlenecks is all very well, but it should be borne in mind this will still leave the south with no alternative routes and only a very vulnerable two-track railway south of Three Bridges. As with the equally susceptible two-track line between Orpington and Tonbridge, we will still suffer point failures, signalling problems, train breakdowns, ‘poor rail conditions’, train crew shortages and all those unforeseen incidents which so frequently plague a struggling network.

 

Overall, railways should not be a transport-only matter for the rail industry and DfT civil servants to deliberate upon and manage. They are the facilitators of economic growth and prosperity, as well as improving the quality of life for everyone. Good communications are essential and the South East desperately needs the two new main lines BML2 will deliver.

 

London also needs BML2 for the fast, high-capacity link it will be through its expanding, wealth-creating ‘super-hub’ – and directly joining Gatwick and Stansted.

 

 

“Delighted” Grayling tells Parliament he hopes BML2 investors will be successful.

Amex Stadium and Falmer Station

 

Brighton’s hugely popular AMEX stadium and University of Sussex at Falmer would be on a main line to London with BML2


 

‘You have to say the BML2 people have worked miracles to come up with such a comprehensive scheme and to find businesses to back the project.’

 

Voice of the Uckfield Observer (who calls on Chris Grayling to “start playing for the BML2, rather than standing on the terraces just cheering them on.”)

 

The recent publication of the Department for Transport’s Connecting People: A Strategic vision for Rail ponders whether reopening closed railways, funded by new house building schemes, could stimulate local economies and improve transport.

 

All national daily newspapers from The Sun to The Daily Telegraph, as well as television and radio, have speculated on what lines might be revived and, not surprisingly, alluded to Lewes–Uckfield, despite it not featuring in the new DfT publication.

 

Whilst we welcome any addition to the nation’s rail network, there are problems with this strategy. Trackbeds which remain extant are predominantly in less-populated locations and such reinstatements will not redress the fundamental and severe problems plaguing our rail network. On the other hand, those routes which really could add desperately-needed capacity have, in almost all cases, been irretrievably destroyed or built over with housing estates, new roads and industrial redevelopment. Thus the substantial cost and re-engineering challenges would most likely be prohibitive and well beyond any ‘roof tax’ contribution from developers.

 

Sussex and Kent both suffer from colossal capacity problems on main lines into London. This is in spite of train lengthening programmes and new rolling stock with fewer seats and lots more standing room. This crisis is the biggest the Government faces and neither Network Rail nor train operators can possibly solve this on their own.

 

Thanks solely to the long-running Wealden Line Campaign, inaugurated in 1986, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Greater London are in the extremely envious position of having two main lines serving the capital reopened. Every serious threat over the past thirty years, including large retail outlets, residential accommodation, industrial unit encroachment, gyratory road schemes and a few others, has been vigorously fought – and won.

 

At its recent AGM, tribute was paid to its faithful and long-standing members, as well as those councils and Members of Parliament who have stood by the campaign’s aims despite all the odds and in the face of such adversity.

 

Accordingly it was with great pleasure that Lewes MP Maria Caulfield was, on Wednesday 29 November, able to stand up in the House of Commons during the debate to directly address the Secretary of State for Transport and ask:

 

“Can I specifically ask on the line reopening because we have the Lewes to Uckfield line in my constituency with the BML2 scheme that could be opened very, very easily, which would improve connectivity and put towns like Seaford and Newhaven on a mainline for the first time. We have private investors willing to put up over £15 billion to fund that. Would the Secretary of State use that scheme as one of the first to illustrate what really can be done?”

 

In a positively warm and welcoming manner Chris Grayling responded:

 

“My Honourable Friend knows that I met the investors who are interested in pursuing this project, I have said that I am very open to doing so, I’m waiting with interest to see as they come back with the first stage of work that they are doing. I’d be delighted to see this route reopened and I hope that the consortium that is pursuing this project proves to be successful in what they are trying to do.”

 

The very substantial sum of money mentioned by Maria Caulfield will be principally consumed by the construction of BML2’s London Phase, which the prospective investors and consultants involved have proposed improving upon by means of a fast, tunnelled link between Croydon and Stratford serving Canary Wharf. Nothing boosts regeneration, investment and wealth creation like a new railway and BML2, by joining counties across the Thames and through booming East London, will be busy the day it opens.

 

Both Sussex and Kent phases are inexpensive and easy by comparison because both these are chiefly reinstatements of former railway lines which have been safeguarded for many years now. Without these, the Brighton and Tonbridge main lines would collapse under the strain to which they are increasingly being subjected. This is why it is so imperative that these highly contentious and enduringly regrettable closures in 1969 (Lewes–Uckfield and Ashurst–Groombridge) and in 1985 (Tunbridge Wells–Eridge) are reversed as soon as possible.

 

Maria Caulfield said afterwards:

 

“With this new rail strategy announcement and the Transport Secretary’s renewed support we are a step closer to the reality of a second Brighton Mainline into London, through Lewes and Uckfield. I will continue to work alongside BML2 campaigners to ensure that this vital new infrastructure project will go ahead.”

 

 

BML2 and the Gibb Report

The publication this summer of the Gibb Report necessitates a response to those matters which could directly affect the BML2 Project. The author of the report, Chris Gibb, aims to provide: 'Changes to improve the performance of the Southern network and train services, and restore passenger confidence'.

 

His report is dominated to a large extent by the continuing dispute over Driver-only operation (DOO). It is not for us to take sides or comment upon the current industrial disagreement. We are, however, interested in what Gibb has to say about the Uckfield line, hence this document outlining our views.

 

Our 10-page report is in pdf format and is best read on a Desktop or Laptop computer, as it has been prepared in landscape format, or alternatively, download and print out on a Colour laser or inkjet printer.

Private sector leading the way on Brighton Main Line 2

 

Daily Grind of London Commuters

 

The daily grind for millions of London and South East commuters

needs a multi-billion solution to transform the grossly-overloaded network


 

Increasing the number of train services and providing large amounts of additional capacity into London from the south is a thorny conundrum. A few days ago a staunch champion of BML2, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, was returned to Parliament with a substantially-increased majority and says she remains utterly determined to assist in securing the project for Sussex. Not so fortunate was Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby who lost his seat to Labour candidate Lloyd Russell-Moyle who declared he is also a supporter of a second main line.

 

In the run-up to the General Election, Labour’s manifesto committed itself to ‘build a new Brighton Main Line for the south-east’ – although whether this specifically meant BML2 was not made clear. This was welcome news – if only that it demonstrated political parties had finally acknowledged the vexing predicament seriously affecting the region. It was also the first time the project had ever become an election pledge.

 

Industry journal Construction News contacted Labour, seeking clarification and informing readers: ‘– the most likely solution is the Brighton Main Line 2 proposal, which has been in development for the past few years. With passenger numbers only expected to increase, the need for solutions to the overcrowding on the Brighton Main Line will grow over this government and the next. And whether under a Labour or Conservative government, through public or private money, built partially or completely, the construction of a new multi-billion-pound rail line in the South-east could be a likely solution.’

 

Labour’s undertaking apparently came as a bolt out of the blue. ‘Shock as Labour manifesto backs BML2 scheme’ wrote Walter Cronxite, political editor at Inside Croydon, who declared BML2 ‘would need to bulldoze through homes and businesses, parkland and even the much-admired tram network.’ In fact, most of this was simply alarmist and wholly untrue. Furthermore, over the last nine months the BML2 scheme has been radically transformed with private sector partners now heavily involved in developing a truly beneficial project, not only for Croydon, but right across the South East.

 

Because all railways within South East London are notoriously jam-packed, back in 2010 we had no alternative but to propose rebuilding the former railway between Selsdon to Lewisham as the only means possible of channelling more trains into London. Admittedly there were substantial engineering obstacles to overcome to revive this once fully-functioning electrified line which was closed in stages between 1983 and 1994, but there was nothing else on the table. However, all that changed last year and, given its massive cost and far-reaching scope, we now have a serious and valid project, which could only have been envisaged and proposed by those with the means in the private sector.

 

As Rail Professional reported in March, the consortium proposes building a new tunnelled link into London, commencing south of Croydon and enabling all feeder lines access. In fact, this was Network Rail’s ‘ultimate capacity generator’ to which it longingly aspired some years ago, but knew it could never afford, or persuade the Government to fund. BML2’s tunnel would continue to East Croydon for interchange, before proceeding to Lewisham where further interchange with the forthcoming Bakerloo Line extension will be possible. The hugely successful commercial centre of Canary Wharf (Crossrail connections) is planned to be next, followed by Stratford (for Crossrail and HS1 connections). The fast new route would then continue to serve East Anglia and onwards to link up with Stansted airport.

 

Over the past few months numerous meetings between seriously interested investors, legal experts and developers have been going on behind the scenes. The BML2 Project Group has also met with engineers and construction companies who have approached us with a view to offering their expertise in developing and delivering the whole scheme. Confidence is such that detailed design work is on schedule and anticipated to commence later this summer. As we are always being reminded, it is an enormous project, whereby we have taken a back seat and allowed the professionals to get on with the task ahead. Nevertheless, we hope to bring news as matters progress on what is set to be a leading construction project wholly funded, designed and built by the private sector and with the backing of the Government.

 

Meanwhile – and quite aside from the continuing problems in Sussex on the Brighton Line – yet further evidence of the urgent need for BML2 continues to come with the publication of Network Rail’s latest Kent Route Study. It says: ‘The capacity for any additional services into London from Kent is extremely limited. Making the best use of the network to provide the maximum capacity possible per train path is critical to meet the growth projections going forward. When train lengthening opportunities have been exhausted there are no clear or simple options to provide additional capacity into London.’

 

It warns that projected growth on the Tonbridge main line simply cannot be accommodated with train lengthening alone, whilst even adding just one additional train would be challenging because of the congested two-track sections south of Orpington. Station capacity is also an insuperable obstacle with both termini at Cannon Street and Charing Cross ‘effectively full’. An old siding near Cannon Street is believed capable of squeezing in just one extra peak hour service, but that’s as good as it gets.

 

Blackfriars will be completely full with the Thameslink services operating high-density rolling stock which is capable of carrying more passengers provided they don’t object to standing. Farringdon is confidently predicted to become the UK’s busiest station – an operational challenge in itself, even with new digital signalling control, with a train in both directions every 150 seconds. As an industry insider famously commented ‘Fingers crossed all round I guess’.

 

Network Rail anticipates the highest passenger growth in Kent to be on the Tonbridge line. Among its primary concerns are ‘capacity issues’ at Tonbridge where conflicting train movements occur on converging lines; the two-track route between Tonbridge–Orpington, which has a mixture of fast/stopping services; and notably restricted platform availability and train length constraints at busy Tunbridge Wells.

 

Even today it is a difficult enough job attempting to operate a reliable service and we are aware how unpopular lowest-scoring train operator Southeastern remains among commuters. But the really grim news for Kent’s rail travellers is the revelation that to cater for this rising growth in the decades ahead, a total of no less than FIVE additional train paths via Tonbridge are needed. As Network Rail admits, these simply cannot be accommodated and comments – ‘Once the opportunities to lengthen existing services have been exhausted, there are no obvious or clear infrastructure solutions to meet the capacity conditional outputs.’

 

This is why BML2’s Kent Phase is of such critical importance because it would rebuild the former main line from London via Oxted into Tunbridge Wells (West). Unfettered by the unalterable short platforms and consequential conflicting movements at Tunbridge Wells station on the Hastings line, let alone busy Tonbridge, the opportunity to provide four additional trains per hour into London would be the biggest boost imaginable to the network and the region. Furthermore, since vast numbers of commuters already struggle with great difficulty and time-wasting frustration to reach Canary Wharf via congested London Bridge, this enduring daily obstacle would be removed. Described as ‘a pig of a journey’ by one borough luminary, BML2 would instead provide fast and direct trains between Kent and Canary Wharf.  

 

Overall, and as with all such route studies, it seems to us that there is a glaring inability by these strategists to look beyond a regional or administrative boundary and consider the bigger picture. Because BML2 crosses these boundaries and links up counties and regions – as railways do – no consideration is given to the immense benefits it could deliver.

 

Of equal importance and apart from the commuter market, Network Rail’s latest study quite rightly points out: ‘The leisure market is important to the economy as well as to passengers’ and goes on to say ‘Improving accessibility to higher education establishments and social infrastructure such as health care and community facilities is important to the strategic goal of improving quality of life for communities and individuals.’

 

Regrettably the pressing and long-overdue need to reconstruct the important arterial routes connecting Kent with Sussex between Royal Tunbridge Wells and the City of Brighton & Hove is absent, despite the fact that the Universities of Sussex and Brighton are so near – yet so far.

 

As the United Kingdom stands on the threshold of a new era outside the EU and open to global markets, there has never been a better time for all concerned to come together – private investors, construction companies, the rail industry and politicians of all parties and get behind Brighton Main Line 2.

 

 

 

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