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 London & South Coast Analysis 2015


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


The download file is approx 4.5mb



Why the South




Main Line 2


The download file is approx 3mb.



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.




Response to

Network Rail's draft

Sussex Area Route Study


The download file is approx 1.5mb.




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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.








Why only BML2 can benefit Lewes

A 6-page publication entitled "Why only BML2 can benefit Lewes" has been published by the BML2 Project Group and explains in layman's terms, why that scheme 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.


It is available as a 1.33Mb pdf download by clicking on this link

Tunnel vision over £3bn Bakerloo extension?


Elmers End 

 Elmers End: Should this remain a dead-end branch to Hayes?

Heading straight on (as it used to) this route must become a new main line from London’s business heartland at Canary Wharf

running direct to Gatwick and the Sussex Coast as part of Thameslink 2.

A period of ‘public consultation’ until 7 December has just begun on the proposed £3bn London Underground Bakerloo line extension. From its current terminus at Elephant & Castle, it is planned to extend to Lewisham, Beckenham and Hayes in Kent.


Already, London Mayor Boris Johnson, a keen supporter, is calling it a “top priority” and suggesting “It would provide a vital new transport link for the people of South London”. Similarly enthusiastic are some London boroughs and authorities. The Bakerloo Extension is in the London Mayor’s 2050 Infrastructure Plan which is now out for consultation:


Opposing the proposal are the many thousands of Kent and South East London commuters who currently use Southeastern’s services from Hayes, Elmers End, Beckenham, Sydenham, Catford. They will lose their direct trains into Charing Cross/Cannon Street and will be obliged to use Underground services to Waterloo via Elephant & Castle.


In its current form, the scheme also poses a threat to the viability of BML2 which needs to make proper use of this highly valuable rail corridor through South East London. BML2 would introduce ‘Thameslink 2’ with its enormously important regional and cross-capital connections linking Stratford International with Lewisham.


We have been aware of the Bakerloo extension proposal for some time (it featured in Network Rail’s 2011 Route Utilisation Strategies) and we have discussed it with transport officers on both sides of the Thames. We have explained that the tube extension need not be a threat; in fact both could be accommodated to far greater advantage to the area – and to London Underground.


The strategic transport corridor between Croydon and Lewisham through Elmers End is wide enough to support BML2’s fast lines, as well as national suburban, or Bakerloo Line, trains between Lewisham and Elmers End. This also applies to Croydon’s Tramlink which partially uses the route south of Elmers End.


Nevertheless, there is a distinct danger that tunnel vision will prevail, whereby London-based planners will view transport in the capital from a narrow perspective only, whereby a massively rewarding national opportunity will be missed in the process.


However, one London Borough north of the Thames has already appreciated the huge potential of ‘Thameslink 2’ – which is the London-end component of the bigger Brighton Main Line 2 scheme. Indeed, it was even remarked that Thameslink 2 would be “easier to deliver” than the Government’s controversial HS2 “– and with more tangible economic gains!”


Coupled with the ‘Stanwick’ concept – which enables Gatwick and Stansted airports to be linked together through Canary Wharf and East London with one dedicated rail service – they have already given Thameslink 2 their backing. In a formal response they say:


‘NEW REGIONAL NETWORK RAIL LINE - Promote the new Thameslink 2 ‘Stanwick’ regional line proposal that links Brighton and Gatwick with Stansted airport via Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf) and the Lower Lea Valley.  This will provide higher capacity on the network and directly link the Canary Wharf metropolitan employment centre with the South-East region.’


The phenomenal growth in rail travel, especially in and around London, seems unstoppable and shows no sign of slowing down. However, with transport commentators already talking about a Thameslink ‘Blackfriars bottleneck’ – even BEFORE the Thameslink 2018 Programme is complete and operational – the alarm bells in planning departments and the rail industry ought to be loudly ringing.


It is apparent to many observers that London already needs a new main line rail connection across the inner eastern Thames through Canary Wharf. This would not only bring substantial relief to badly-overcrowded central London, but open up valuable connections to counties separated by the river. As a South London transport planner told us in 2012 “London is effectively two cities”


Crossrail, Canary Wharf, East London regeneration, airport expansion and connections, are just a few of the reasons why Thameslink 2 needs to be grasped with both hands by the political big-hitters. Even so, the boroughs we have spoken to so far have emphasised the significant role they play and the influence at their command. Transport for London, the Mayor’s Office and Canary Wharf need to get behind this great project.


Thameslink 2 is also the best solution to the persistent problems plaguing the Brighton Main Line. Purely local re-openings in Sussex such as Lewes–Uckfield will not in themselves solve the horrendous capacity problems we are facing in the South East. Direct and frequent services into Brighton via BML2 are imperative – as yet again recent chaos on the adjacent Brighton Main Line demonstrates. This is quite apart from the current scheduled closures due to engineering works over four weekends. The cost to the Sussex economy is significant and trying to shunt people on a lengthy rail-hike around West Sussex via Arundel is no longer acceptable.


Last week, ex-Southeastern trains manager Charles Horton (now boss of the new mega-Thameslink franchise) incurred public wrath by suggesting commuters would find Siemens’ forthcoming Bedford-Brighton trains “more comfortable to stand up in”. We warned this would be the case back in February:


It shouldn’t be surprising that millions of rail-users across the south are feeling aggrieved, exasperated, angry, ignored – and simply taken for granted. Like everyone else, we too are wondering where are the powerful voices in Parliament who will speak up for this region.


This enduring mess of a rail network needs to be sorted out and BML2, alongside Thameslink 2, should be getting the serious Government attention it truly deserves.




Brighton Main Line 2 may be included says Minister as politicians clash over project

Brighton 82720


More track and trains are needed between the South Coast and London


Higher rail fares, increasing congestion, cancelled and late trains, weary and dissatisfied commuters, whilst both Southern and Southeastern come bottom of the league among passengers. Rail bosses say they’re carrying twice the number of passengers in the SE than ten years ago but, as we’ve said many times, not a mile of track has been reopened in the South. Commuters say they are “sick and tired of being treated like this”“we are fed up and something has to change”.


Brighton’s Conservative MPs have expressed their dissatisfaction as Simon Kirby observed: “This area has suffered from years of a lack of investment”. A keen supporter of BML2 and aware that short-term proposals are no longer enough, he added: “The Brighton Line is at capacity and a long-term solution is needed. There is a strong argument for us getting a second line, not only to solve problems of capacity, but also robustness. If there is a problem at the moment it can impact the whole line whereas another line would help that”.  


Just before Parliament broke for its summer recess, Simon Kirby tabled a question, asking whether the Secretary of State for Transport has considered funding in Network Rail’s next spending review for Brighton Main Line 2. The minister responded: “The Department has not yet begun the process of formally considering options for funding during railway Control Period 6 (2019 to 2024). When this process formally commences in 2015, it will likely identify a range of potential options for investment, some of which may include elements of the wide ranging proposals, collectively known as Brighton Main Line 2.”


Brighton & Hove City Council has already given its backing to BML2 and a few days ago the Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Geoffrey Theobald, contacted us to specifically reaffirm his endorsement.


Recently, at their request, Conservative candidates Nusrat Ghani and Maria Caulfield – who will be standing in Wealden and Lewes constituencies respectively – were given a presentation on BML2. Subsequently Maria Caulfield, who will be contesting Norman Baker’s seat, spoke on ITV Meridian News in support of the proposals.
This was followed by a longer feature on Meridian News, explaining how BML2 would reintroduce two main lines to the south; not only from Brighton to London, but also from Tunbridge Wells to London. In an interview at Uckfield station the emphasis was on the ever-worsening capacity crisis across the South East and the need for specific closed routes to be reopened, along with certain strategic new links to revolutionize the rail network. Substantial sums of money need to be invested in the region – but we need political champions who are prepared to argue that case within the DfT and the Government.


Soon, Network Rail is expected to present its draft study to the DfT on increasing route capacity between the Sussex Coast and London, in which they will consider BML2. Previous schemes of the past 45 years to reopen rail services between Lewes and Uckfield have been consistently rejected by the DfT, ministers and also the rail industry. As they have said, over and over again, this is because “Lewes would constrain through-running to Brighton” whilst the volume of additional trains required to make the scheme viable would not be possible.


The conclusive blow really occurred in 2008 with Network Rail’s study, which showed reopening a Lewes–Uckfield link just on its own as, even now, still being proposed by Norman Baker and the ‘RailFuture’ group, could only be for local use and of no benefit to Sussex’s central ‘spine’ – the Brighton main line. Full electrification, redoubling and direct running between London and Brighton would also be necessary – as proposed by BML2.


It was for this reason that BML2 was devised which, besides linking into Lewes and on to Eastbourne, includes the all-important South Downs tunnel directly into Brighton, thus enabling a massive increase in the number of services which could operate between the South Coast and London. In 2010, it was explained to Norman Baker how he could achieve his ambition of reopening Lewes–Uckfield as part of a much larger and more useful scheme, but he wouldn’t listen.


Meridian News interviewed the Lewes Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker, for his reaction to the Conservative support; however, yet again he expressed his opposition to BML2 and told viewers: “I’m all in favour of reopening railway lines; in fact I did some when I was Minister of Transport in the Department for Transport and I want to see extensions to the railway network. But we have to be practical as to what’s achievable. Lewes to Uckfield in my view is achievable, but BML2 practically – whether it’s desirable or not – is not achievable.”


His steadfast opposition continues to irritate all those who want to see the south’s overloaded rail system expanded – as is happening elsewhere in the UK. “Norman Baker is well-known for his enthusiastic endorsement of HS2, purely because it’s politically expedient for him to do so, yet he will not stand up and fight for the South and lobby for investment where it’s really needed – on our beleaguered and overcrowded network” – is just one comment we received from a commuter last week.


The tragedy is that during Norman Baker’s lengthy period as Transport Minister so much could have been achieved since 2010 had he only put his narrow personal ambition to one side and instead worked jointly with neighbouring MPs and councils who support BML2, enabling them to put their case to the DfT.


Sadly and inevitably, the real losers continue to be all those who have to rely every day on the South’s increasingly creaking rail network.



Transport Department and Network Rail are crippling the South

Crippling the South


Trains are more popular than ever but the region cannot cope without an expanded system.



Frustration and anger continues to grow over the indifference to the south’s daily struggle to meet rising demand across its network. There are genuine concerns that between them the Department for Transport and Network Rail are strangling the south, seriously damaging its prospects, stifling its economy and undermining its future. This Government appears uninterested in solving such mounting problems, whilst its ministers will not face up to the fundamental weaknesses in this important region.


What the south urgently needs is a more comprehensive network so more trains can operate, but the Government and the rail industry continue to sit on their hands, still refusing to commit any large-scale funding towards a programme of genuine rail expansion. Yet they know how vital railways are to the economy, regeneration and prosperity because these are reasons they give for High Speed 2, insisting £50 billion must be spent on it.


Now we even have the chancellor George Osborne saying he wants to build a High Speed Three. But when it comes to the Home Counties south of the capital, whose diminished rail network now carries countless thousands more passengers into London than ever before, Governments of all political persuasions haven’t reopened or laid one additional mile of new railway. The southern region has been allowed to stagnate.


Double standards apply when it comes to HS2 and BML2. Whatever the merits of the former, the argument is put forward that all of a sudden it’s urgently needed – apparently no longer for ‘high speed’ – but to relieve the West Coast Main Line with substantial amounts of more capacity. Compare this to the Government’s attitude to the notoriously beleaguered Brighton Main Line and the latest comment from the Department for Transport to Edenbridge Town Council: “Large-scale investment in alternative routes in the outer area of the Brighton Main Line would likely be of very limited value in the short to medium term – this finding is applicable to the re-instatement of the Lewes-Uckfield line.”


Not surprisingly, the council said it was “extremely disappointed in the apparent dismissal of moves towards the much-needed restoration of the Uckfield line” adding that it would not prevent them continuing with pressure to see the line restored. One palpably angry councillor criticized such negativity, saying: “This has been going on for well over 25 years and is not getting anywhere because of the financial situation. Any money used on the railways will be wasted on the high speed line to Birmingham. The HS2 is unnecessary and such a waste of money – it's ridiculous. It's annoying as the cost for restoring and linking to Brighton will be minimal by comparison – the vast majority of the line is already there and operational –  it just needs some political commitment.”


In its response, a spokesman for Network Rail said: “We have asked for the trackbed of the route to be protected as we agree the route will be needed in future. However, there are more pressing needs on the Brighton Main Line, because the capacity squeeze is more acute at the London end of the route. Were we to create space for more trains at the coastal end of the line now, we would just be pouring more water into a blocked sink.”


But this is precisely why BML2’s London Phase is so vital – to enable more services and non-stopping trains from Brighton, Gatwick and elsewhere, to avoid clogging East Croydon and its multiple bottlenecks on either side.


And no matter what happens at the London end, the additional main line to Brighton and the Sussex coast is needed now and cannot come soon enough – because the entire BML is one ‘blocked sink’ for all its length. The same goes for the south’s Tonbridge Main Line, for which Network Rail admits it has no solutions.


In similar vein, an exasperated Uckfield commuter (one of David Cameron’s ‘hard-working families’) expressed his astonishment in a well-argued communication to the DfT’s ‘Deputy Director of Rail Network Outcomes’. He questioned why Network Rail’s Interim Report on South Coast capacity: “offers no forward strategic planning in respect of the continuing growing use of the rail network in the South East” and added: “I note that its contents have been accepted – presumably as the report does not propose spending any money”.


He went on to remind DfT headquarters in London: “Sussex remains particularly poorly served with effectively only one coastal commuter line to London running through it – the BML – to which everyone railheads. The Uckfield line does the best it can but strategically has no function in its present truncated form beyond serving the local towns and villages running near it.  It is chronically underused in terms of train paths if not underused by the local public and, as a result, suffers from severe overcrowding.”


Network Rail is fully aware of this, but has for years declined doing anything about it and comes up with numerous excuses. That’s largely because the DfT appears complacent, whilst successive Governments of all political persuasions over the past forty years have sat back and allowed today’s situation to develop.


Some very bold and real solutions are absurdly overdue and needed now – not in twenty years’ time – to create more train paths across the southern region into London. All the south’s principal routes are completely full and cannot support any more train services, whilst short-term fixes are now exhausted. The same goes for their latest attempts to squeeze in even greater numbers of commuters into the forthcoming Thameslink trains which will have fewer and narrower seats so more standing space is available.


When it comes to redoubling, electrifying and restoring Brighton’s secondary main line via Uckfield, the lame excuse of ‘no spare capacity in London’ is given. This, they believe, conveniently absolves them from doing anything at all.


Another excuse centres on the DfT and Network Rail’s view that third rail electrification is ‘dead’ and has no future role – but they won’t commit to overhead electrification either, which could easily and usefully be implemented on a second Brighton–London main line. No wonder many of us have the impression that they would really like people to stop causing them problems by using the railways.


All this boils down to recent depressing evidence that the south’s economic prospects are suffering badly because the Brighton and Tonbridge main lines have reached the very limit of their capability. Everyone knows – including Network Rail and the train operators – that the BML will carry on suffering periodic catastrophic failures, as well as daily delays. We can also guarantee that consequential repeated calls for restoration of Brighton’s secondary main line will continue to fall on deaf ears.


In his letter the Sussex commuter also questioned why “the powers that be” cannot grasp the fact that for want of just a few miles of track the vast conurbations of Tunbridge Wells and Brighton and all the towns around could be connected by rail. This fully functioning rail network would benefit many hundreds of thousands of people – a view recently expressed by Cabinet Minister and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark.


In their response the DfT said: “The Department agrees with your view that the findings of the report need to be considered in the wider regional context”. However, so far there has been no evidence of this from Network Rail, which doesn’t feel it’s under any pressure to act decisively – or soon. Left to its own devices, it will continue to ignore the problem because, after all, simply saying they apologize for any inconvenience caused costs nothing.


The failings of the south’s inadequate rail network have been widely acknowledged for decades and by successive Governments and its ministers. The consequences are far reaching and truly enormous, having a direct and very negative impact on not just the regional economy but that of the capital.


Political pressure to address this shamefully long-ignored problem needs to be brought at the highest level.



Network Rail yet again dismisses ‘Lewes-Uckfield’ but will consider BML2

BML2 web80720


Work on introducing a long-overdue new main line between London and the South Coast needs to start straightaway


Network Rail has submitted a ‘Pre-Route Study’ to the Department of Transport on the beleaguered Brighton Line in advance of its ‘London & Sussex Coast Study’ into increasing rail capacity in the south. A draft is expected this autumn and the final report summer 2015.


In summary, this 31-page interim report says the most heavily-utilised junctions, platforms and lines are north of Redhill to London, so this will be the main focus of effort in 2019-2024. “These locations are acting as a bottleneck for the whole route” it says, adding: “Most of these inner locations are also likely to see increased usage from December 2018, when the Thameslink programme is completed.”


Believing there is no single scheme to free-up capacity on the route, NR expects the new Three Bridges Control in 2020 will ease several further key constraints, primarily at East Croydon, the busy junctions north and south thereof, and Keymer where Eastbourne/Lewes line joins.


However, it warns “it is unlikely a significant number of additional main line paths will be released on this route”. This is because the BML is already operating at full capacity.


NR therefore concludes “Given the above conclusions with respect to critical bottlenecks on the inner section of the BML, large scale investment in alternative routes on the outer area of the BML such as Lewes – Uckfield, is likely to be of very limited value in the short to medium term, although Network Rail remains of the view that protection of that alignment is still the correct policy for the long term.”


It also states the extent of rail development in the south will depend on available funding from the Government.


There are severe problems across the south’s network which carries massive volumes. NR gives the number of trains per day at these principal UK stations: Kings Cross 590; Euston 752; Paddington 834; Reading 1,027; Manchester Piccadilly 1,249. This compares with the BML’s north Croydon junction which sees 1,820 trains (1,195 of these go through East Croydon station).


London termini remain a severe constraint. With Thameslink (2018) the newly-remodelled London Bridge terminus will be restricted to 20 trains per hour – “Room does not exist to add additional platforms or approach tracks”.


On the Brighton – Victoria route it says: “Clapham Junction is the key platform-based constraint”.


Added to this, the London & South East Market Study predicts growth of 26% on the BML up to 2023 – 64% of this expected on Thameslink.


There are even more headaches in the pipeline because demand between BML stations such as Brighton, Gatwick and East Croydon is escalating: “especially in response to any expansion of Gatwick Airport and proposed retail and commercial developments along the route”.


As we cautioned, NR confirms: “The new [Siemens] rolling stock for Thameslink services has a layout designed for higher passenger density, with fewer seats and more standing room.” It says: “the extra carriages will ease or at least match the current levels of standing on the route at peak times” but warns: “in the long term, it is likely that passengers will stand for greater distances unless further capacity is provided.”


So what solutions are on the table?


A major problem is South Croydon Junction where the Uckfield/East Grinstead lines join the BML. NR says “No viable solution currently available”. This is why the BML2 project believes Croydon Gateway is critical for new cross-connections with a new interchange station to relieve the East Croydon bottleneck.


Further south, Keymer Junction is “particularly restrictive” whilst the single-line sections introduced in 1990 by British Rail under the then Transport Minister Michael Portillo on the former double-track Uckfield branch severely limit speed and flexibility. As such, this low-frequency service intensifies railheading to the BML from Haywards Heath and Gatwick.


NR rightfully concludes: “it is clear a new line solution would have to relieve constraints inwards of Stoats Nest Junction [Coulsdon] and Croydon to add any capacity value over what may be achievable anyway in 2019-24.”


It then refers to its 2010 suggestion: “long-term relief of the BML would require a new railway in tunnel from at least as far out as South Croydon in addition to any new line scheme in the outer area.” This enormously expensive proposal would involve a 15 mile-long tunnel beneath South London.


Away from London, NR considers the Sussex end, saying “During 2008 Network Rail undertook a study on behalf of East Sussex County Council, assessing the likely cost of re-instatement of the Lewes – Uckfield line and assessing the likely business case. The report concluded there was not a case for re-opening the route. The key points from the study were: 1) The cost of route re-instatement exceeded benefits of all options tested; 2) Options tested were based on the extension of existing Uckfield services to Lewes, Seaford and Eastbourne; 3) The level of population and expected development around the line was an important factor in the weak business case.”


However, NR supports “continued protection of the alignment” explaining that “the logic for this remains sound, namely that in the long term, if a large-scale new lines solution is found to the inner area, focus will again turn to how the outer areas of the BML can handle greater capacity.”


An ‘incremental’ re-opening, recently revived by RailFuture with its ‘Bridge the Gap’ campaign for a diesel-operated single-line connection, is rejected and will disappoint the former Transport Minister and Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker.


NR is firm on this, saying: “In the short to medium term therefore the most likely use of Lewes – Uckfield could only be for the existing 2 trains per hour from Uckfield to be extended to run from Lewes or beyond. The 2008 study indicated this approach did not have a business case.”


NR contests that allocating any additional capacity from the south London area to Lewes services via Uckfield would not serve the largest peak demand locations. Of course, such Uckfield services could not go into Brighton and they argue these “would not relieve Haywards Heath or serve Gatwick Airport”, but this argument is partially flawed. They miss the fundamental crux of the matter that the problem rests with excessive railheading because Sussex’s other lines are extremely poor by comparison – notably the BML’s virtually parallel route – the Uckfield line.


Indisputably, relief of the overburdened BML can only come with an effective ‘rail bypass’ – as achieved in 1900 at congested Redhill Junction. As politicians are beginning to concur, the south needs a new main line between the Sussex Coast and London.


This interim report does not mention BML2, but says: “Running additional through services on the Uckfield line would trigger significant upgrade costs between Oxted and Uckfield including the need to double remaining single line sections, upgrade and put in new power supply equipment and re-signal parts of the route.”


It’s true that a total of 12 miles needs re-doubling, but this has been done elsewhere in the UK – Kemble being just one recent example. Past failures by cash-strapped British Rail to upgrade and electrify the Uckfield line are now being reaped. Are they really saying the West Coast Main Line must have the mega-expensive HS2 for ‘capacity relief’ but the south’s rail passengers can struggle on regardless?


NR admits “at times of planned or unplanned prolonged disruption on the Brighton Main Line south of the Croydon area there would be some diversionary benefit in having the Lewes – Uckfield route open.” But it then highlights the weakness of Norman Baker’s and RailFuture’s proposal: “under the scheme assessed in the 2008 report, diversionary benefits would be predominantly for East Coastway passengers, with any passengers from Brighton only able to use the route with services reversing at Lewes, and passengers from the West Coastway and any stations north of Brighton on the BML receiving no benefit.”
This is why the distinction between ‘Lewes – Uckfield’ and BML2 is so important. NR argues that even if they reopened Lewes – Uckfield, at times of diversion, potentially only one additional train could be run, unless the route is redoubled, resignalled and electrified (as proposed by BML2).


NR says it will look at an ‘Arun chord’ for diverting Brighton trains via Worthing, Arundel and Horsham, but says the journey time penalty, even with a new chord (avoiding reversal at Littlehampton), would add at least 50 minutes to the journey. Let us remind you the DfT dismissed going via Uckfield because it would add 10 minutes to the journey!


There are fundamental oversights in this NR report for reasons we’ll not discuss here, but will be explained in due course. However, since its publication, Lib Dem Transport Minister Baroness Susan Kramer has stated: “The Government recognises the importance of rail links between London and the South Coast. As such, we have asked Network Rail to consider options for improving capacity on this key corridor including the role that the Brighton Main Line 2 proposals could make.”




Baroness Kramer joins latest Lib Dem attack on Brighton Main Line 2

Croham Bridge


The closed railway through Croham in the Borough of Croydon will remain disused if the Lib Dems have their way.

This electrified London line was closed in 1984 but, as part of BML2, would form part of new rail connections

into the capital and into East Anglia from the South Coast.



Norman Baker’s replacement at the Department for Transport, Baroness Susan Kramer has involved herself in the Liberal Democrat campaign against the Brighton Main Line 2 Project.


In their latest attack aimed at BML2, on 10 April she took part in a photo opportunity at Westminster arranged by the Croydon Liberal Democrats where she took possession of petition slips garnered from local residents in the Croham area of the London Borough.


Baroness Kramer and John JefkinsIn a rather bland statement given to Lib Dem party activist John Jefkins she said: “Lib Dems in government are investing £38 billion in rail in the next five years, including upgrades to the existing Brighton mainline – without damaging Tramlink.”


But everyone who has properly studied and understood BML2 will know that, far from being damaged, the BML2 Project actively proposes improving and extending Tramlink. We don’t know what the Croydon Lib Dems have been telling residents, but the purpose they claim was to: “hand over your petition slips opposing any new ‘BML2’ rail line through Croham that would rip up Tramlink from Lloyd Park to Elmers End.”


Criticising BML2’s recently-published London & South Coast Appraisal (downloadable, see left column), Mr Jefkins said: “Tramlink is not the ‘underused’ rail line quoted by BML2 supporters in their latest study”. Our appraisal doesn’t say that, because we know how busy, successful and valued Tramlink is to South London.


With time now running out for this coalition government, the Lib Dems are already in election mode. In a recent interview with the Croydon Advertiser Mr Jefkins listed his primary concerns: “We have been listening to local views and a lot of people are concerned about parking, litter, overgrown pavements, council spending, waste, all these things matter on the doorstep. We also want to raise awareness of the Brighton Mainline 2 project.”


In the Advertiser he said: “No one knows this is on the cards” after telling its readers: “It’s bonkers, basically. It has no proper business case. I’m dubbing it a line to nowhere. They may as well build it out to sea because it misses Gatwick, East Croydon and central London.”


In fact it doesn’t miss any of these places, but brings much-needed flexibility and new destinations to the South’s rail network. Nevertheless, the Lib Dems quite clearly view the capital’s global financial centre at Canary Wharf, Stratford International, (and forthcoming Crossrail interchanges there), Stansted Airport, Cambridge, etc, as “nowhere”.


What’s more, all these “nowhere” places, such as Canary Wharf, would be directly connected to Gatwick Airport by the reopened line through Croham with a link across to the Brighton Main Line to avoid the insuperable East Croydon bottleneck.


Despite this, the Lib Dems boast they are offering “joined-up thinking on appropriate solutions to transport issues”. So what do they propose? Well, they suggest “support for extra platforms at East Croydon” and in typically vague terms “other major improvements planned by Network Rail.”


At the very least we would expect Baroness Kramer to be far better informed, especially as her own departmental officials have already explicitly warned: “There is no further scope within the railway network’s existing footprint”.


Similarly, Network Rail has explained the impossibilities of further expansion at East Croydon station, let alone the railway and its busy junctions through here. In a recent interview in the London Evening Standard, Tim Robinson, Network Rail Director of Development for Sussex, said: “We are looking at the potential benefits of BML2. A key part is how we increase capacity at East Croydon, which is essential to accommodate the additional services.”


In its London & South East Route Strategy Network Rail explains: ‘On Sussex routes some additional train paths have been found, but the East Croydon area represents a major barrier to further growth.’ It also says what they are looking for is ‘a new route that does not involve the congested East Croydon corridor’ – going on to suggest: ‘a scheme that removed Fast Line services from the existing Brighton Main Line somewhere in the Croydon area would be the ultimate capacity generator’.


That is precisely what is required. So it’s regrettable that the Lib Dem’s Transport Minister, who has been in the job barely six months, is evidently putting her party’s politics before the serious and fundamental problems afflicting the South’s railway network.


Baroness Kramer’s predecessor, Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, who was controversially shifted into the Home Office last October, made good use of his three and a half year term at the Department of Transport by campaigning against Brighton Main Line 2. Even shortly before he left the DfT, he visited Croydon to express his opposition towards BML2 and specifically “rejected” the scheme’s proposal to allow fast Brighton Line trains and Gatwick Expresses to avoid East Croydon to reach London.
You might think re-opening disused railways, installing short strategic links and exploiting existing assets to allow the whole system to operate far more efficiently in a cost-effective way would be passionately supported by any so-called ‘environmentally-conscious’ political party.


But the Lib Dems have contradictory approaches when it comes to rail – as Norman Baker proved with his own words. He is an ardent supporter of HS2, saying: “High speed rail will be good for the environment and the economy. HS2 will create hundreds of thousands of jobs; be a major boost to our economy and help us shift to the clean, green economy of the future.”


Yet in Sussex he describes BML2 as “grandiose” and didn’t think it “has a hope of happening”.


In regard to HS2 he said: “We have listened to communities along the line of the HS2 and have made important changes that will reduce the impact of the scheme. These include a new tunnel through West London and a new tunnel at Bromford, near Birmingham.”


However, in his fight against BML2 running through a corner of his constituency he told BBC Sussex: “I’m getting complaints from Lewes about tunnelling under people’s houses. That’s not going to happen in a million years. It would be very, very expensive, it would also be very controversial – and the last thing we want is a controversial line.”


The reopening of many long-closed lines throughout London has been more successful than anyone ever imagined. It is time that policy was extended into the southern counties bordering the capital where not a mile of closed railway has been restored to the national network. This is even more urgent as the system faces a daily struggle to keep up with the overload of increasing traffic.


Those who actively seek to deny millions of people in London and the South East a superbly upgraded and expanded network capable of daily transporting many more passengers really don’t deserve to be entrusted with such power.



Ministerial backing for Brighton Main Line 2


Tunbridge Wells West Station


The magnificent and spacious Tunbridge Wells station built by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Company whose main lines connected the Royal Borough to both London and Brighton. But it was systematically run-down in the 1960s and eventually closed by British Rail in 1985. As part of BML2 it would be reopened as a premier commuter station with direct trains to Canary Wharf, the City and Brighton and bring about the regeneration of the nearby Pantiles area of Tunbridge Wells.



In what will undoubtedly be seen as an extremely welcome move, the Minister of State for Cabinet Office (Cities and Constitution) and Member of Parliament for Royal Tunbridge Wells, the Rt Hon Greg Clark, has pledged his firm backing for the Brighton Main Line 2 Project.


In a communication this week his office told the BML2 Project Group: ‘The Member of Parliament for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark, is a strong supporter of the BML2 campaign.’ 


To underline that support, his office reported: ‘He has recently written to the Rail Minister, Stephen Hammond, to highlight the benefits that a link from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton Main Line 2 would bring to his constituents.’


In his statement, the Minister said: ‘The transport network in my constituency is already severely overcrowded so a new link from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton, Eastbourne and London would be a great boon.’


Given the unrelenting pressure on the south’s rail routes into London and the search for viable solutions, Greg Clark explained: ‘The Rail Minister has asked Network Rail to carry out a review on how to increase rail capacity between London and the Sussex coast so I wanted to ensure that he was made aware of the considerable benefits this proposal would have for local rail passengers.’


In his role as Minister for Cities, Greg Clark was in Brighton this month where, in the presence of MPs Caroline Lucas and Mike Weatherley, who both support BML2, he signed off the ‘Greater Brighton City Deal’. This is aimed at boosting the city’s technological future with £170m of investment and the creation of 8,500 new jobs. Brighton will become a key place of employment – and people need trains to get to work. The Minister said: ‘It can help turn Brighton into one of the most prosperous cities in the UK. This is one of the places that is going to drive growth, not just locally, but across the United Kingdom – and your neighbours are very much part of the local economy.’


Rail transport is clearly vital to any thriving, growing economy and in this latest move the Tunbridge Wells MP has shown he is certainly aware of the daily difficulties facing the south’s commuters and other passengers in travelling around the region. The Tonbridge Line, just like the Brighton Line, is full up and cannot operate any more trains – which is where BML2 comes in by restoring those former main line railway services into Tunbridge Wells and into Brighton axed in the sixties.


In another equally welcome and significant move, the Minister has gone further. His office told us: ‘Greg has also asked the Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to support the BML2 scheme in their forthcoming Transport Strategy.’


This development will be especially well-received by Brighton & Hove City Council which last year gave its firm backing to BML2. As well as its key Labour and Green supporters, Greg Clark’s fellow Conservative MPs in the city, Simon Kirby and Mike Weatherley, will be particularly pleased to receive the Minister’s pronouncement and wholehearted support for BML2.


The news will similarly cheer many thousands of people right across Sussex, Kent and Surrey who, for decades now, have been denied a comprehensive and integrated rail network. Speaking on behalf of the Uckfield Railway Line’s town and parish councils’ rail committee, its chairman, Uckfield’s Mayor, Cllr Ian Smith, said he was extremely encouraged and delighted by the news: ‘This is a tremendous boost for all of us here in East Sussex. We have never given up hope of seeing modern rail communications re-established to Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge. For us it is just as vital as BML2’s direct link into the City of Brighton and Hove, as well as into Lewes and Sussex coastal towns. Having the Minister’s support gives further encouragement and renewed hope to all those in the area who have steadfastly maintained that rebuilding our disjointed rail network is essential for the economic well-being of the South East Region and for supporting London’s position as a world-class business centre.’


BML2 chairman Duncan Bennett was equally enthusiastic, commenting: ‘Greg Clark’s involvement is truly significant and I’m thrilled that such a powerful voice in Kent wishes to be part of this fantastic project for the South East. In particular, I very much hope that Kent’s councillors will give their full backing to the Minister and now come on board as Tunbridge Wells and surrounding towns have so much to gain with BML2.’



London & South Coast Appraisal Published

BML2 London & South Coast Appraisal


After many months of thorough analysis, the BML2 Project Group has produced its own appraisal into how more capacity, network expansion and boosting the regional economy can be achieved. It points the way forward to a phased investment programme which will provide a far more robust and comprehensive rail system. 


We believe work should start straightaway, not in fifteen years’ time when Network Rail hopes to mitigate its East Croydon bottleneck headache. Equally, the Department for Transport needs to look beyond piecemeal enhancements and appreciate the bigger picture. This involves London’s pressing need for cross-connections east of the capital.


Two of London’s critical feeders, Sussex’s Brighton Line and Kent’s Tonbridge Line are already at capacity says Network Rail, which admitted there is insufficient track capacity to operate any more trains. The BML2 project can solve two problems at once, but it will probably need friends in high places and powerful political hitters to guide it through.


As the document makes clear, BML2 is not about speed or attempting to rival or substitute HS2; however, it’s just as important. It is about realistically addressing the alarming capacity crisis on a very congested rail system feeding into London from the Home Counties.


To Download the Appraisal CLICK on above image




Time to rebuild the South East’s rail network


Tonbridge Failure


The South east needs a larger and more resilient network.


Landslides, floods and storm-force winds have all wreaked havoc on the railways this winter; adding to the already difficult conditions under which the system normally operates. Above all, the message is that we need a far more resilient network which can quickly respond, not just in emergencies such as these, but to all those regular delays occurring on a weekly basis.


Despite the headline-hitting calamity which struck Dawlish, closing the line for several weeks and prompting sudden calls for a £700m reopening of the alternative route to Plymouth, the continuing plight of the far busier Brighton Line must not be overlooked. This intensely busy route has been waiting 45 years for its alternative line to be re-established.


In a recent interview, Network Rail’s Tim Robinson said Network Rail expected to publish its draft London & South Coast Study this spring, followed by its final report in the summer. Instigated by the Department for Transport, this will consider how more trains can be operated between the Sussex Coast and the capital. This is not a new subject, but one seriously proposed in 2001 when Connex and Railtrack jointly demonstrated the urgent need for new main lines in the south.


Since that time, overcrowding has drastically worsened, whilst the only development to date has been to reduce seating capacity to make space for more people to stand when the new Thameslink trains arrive in 2016. As commented, such a proposition is not being put forward for greater capacity on the West Coast Main Line, where the Government says it needs to spend £50 billion to build High Speed 2.


Here in the increasingly over-congested South East, the fundamental problem has always rested with a small and extremely overburdened network. Consistently ducked by every Government, this situation will never improve until the predicament is properly addressed.


However, after many months of thorough analysis, the BML2 Project Group has produced its own appraisal into how more capacity, network expansion and boosting the regional economy can be achieved. It points the way forward to a phased investment programme which will provide a far more robust and comprehensive rail system.


We believe work should start straightaway, not in fifteen years’ time when Network Rail hopes to mitigate its East Croydon bottleneck headache. Equally, the Department for Transport needs to look beyond piecemeal enhancements and appreciate the bigger picture. This involves London’s pressing need for cross-connections east of the capital.


Two of London’s critical feeders, Sussex’s Brighton Line and Kent’s Tonbridge Line are already at capacity says Network Rail, which admitted there is insufficient track capacity to operate any more trains. The BML2 project can solve two problems at once, but it will probably need friends in high places and powerful political hitters to guide it through.


We are wholly confident BML2 has an extremely strong business case because of the indisputable value it would deliver to both train operator and network provider. Its key advantage lies in the new journey opportunities which would largely finance its case, whilst other very significant benefits are gained.


Principal among these would be the value to airline industry because BML2 could seamlessly and efficiently connect two of London’s three hub airports as one joint integrated operation. Directly serving the beating heart of London’s global financial centre at Canary Wharf, these trains would conveniently interconnect with Crossrail’s east-west services.


Stratford International would also be served, linking together counties on either side of the Thames divide and becoming a driver for regeneration and prosperity. Perhaps the greatest bonus of all rests with the Thameslink 2 concept which would take enormous pressure off the central London core through Farringdon. Only recently, the Arup Group involved with developing Crossrail exposed a serious miscalculation in future demand once Crossrail and Thameslink are complete, warning of unbearable overcrowding at Farringdon and other central London stations.


As the document makes clear, BML2 is not about speed or attempting to rival or substitute HS2; however, it’s just as important. It is about realistically addressing the alarming capacity crisis on a very congested rail system feeding into London from the Home Counties.


With the welcome arrival of spring and the destructive storms now hopefully behind us, the travelling public’s tolerance has been tested to the extreme this winter. Nevertheless, the problems facing the south’s network won’t subside with the floodwaters.


As our London & South Coast Appraisal explains – we need a bigger network.  



Stand up for the Brighton Line

Siemens-700 EMU


Despite more standing room and fewer seats, the new Thameslink trains will be just as hampered by the Brighton Line.
Photo: Siemens UK 


BBC South East’s Inside Out programme recently featured the stresses and weaknesses in the region’s rail network.


Unfortunately rather simplistic comparisons were made yet again between journey times on northern InterCity routes and those from the South Coast into London. Interviews with local MPs featured the predictable aim of securing faster services (at the expense of others). Of course, if we closed all the intermediate stations – as occurred on routes north and west of London in the 1960s to create the 125mph InterCity services – then we might clip off half an hour on the morning commute.


Thankfully, realism was introduced into the programme by Network Rail’s Tim Robinson who sensibly pointed out that the south’s railway was entirely different. He explained it was an intensive commuter system, carrying many thousands into work every day on a very congested network, with hundreds of stations, interlacing lines and conflicting train movements, busy junctions and so on.


However, as Network Rail admits, the whole infrastructure is fast wearing out. Inherent weaknesses are now really beginning to show and these need to be urgently addressed. If the south’s politicians would unite on this, then we might find some Government attention.


At the moment, all hopes are pinned on Siemens new Thameslink trains, unveiled this month and entering service from 2016. This is being heavily promoted by the Transport Secretary as “the good news” for beleaguered Brighton Line commuters. Even so, words are very carefully chosen when saying these new trains will deliver significantly more capacity by carrying higher numbers of people. That’s all perfectly true, but we have been more interested in exactly how that is done, rather than accept it at face value.


The new trains are lighter, use less power and are far more spacious inside. Of course, the trains themselves cannot be any bigger because of Britain’s loading gauge compared to the continent, so how do they do it? Because they are fixed formation – that is built as complete non-detachable units of 8-car and 12-car – they cannot be joined or divided en route. Consequently, intermediate driving cabs aren’t required which releases space along the whole length of the train and thereby used for seating, or more pertinently, standing.


We became concerned a couple of years ago when Network Rail revealed: “the Thameslink Programme rolling stock has fewer seats and greater standing capacity compared to conventional rolling stock” (London & SE Route Utilisation Strategy 2010) – and so it is.


The DfT aspires for no passenger to have to stand for more than 20 minutes, but most commuter journeys in the south are over an hour and nobody would want to stand all the way into work or back home.


Many current Southern trains have ample (2+2) seating, whilst narrower seating in the ‘high-density’ (3+2) carriages isn’t popular. So what will conditions be like on the new Thameslink trains compared to today’s ‘high density’ trains? The table here sets out capacity on Southern’s ‘high capacity’ trains (SN in green) alongside the new Siemens Thameslink trains (TL in blue) to assess the forthcoming ratio between sitting and standing.


Seat Capacity on new trains



The new Thameslink vehicles are strikingly metro-style and, like London Overground trains, are entirely ‘walk-through’. Some observers have already branded them clinical and bus-like, but they are certainly better-placed so more people can stand in the wider aisles – due to narrower and less seating. But is this what people are paying for? Brighton and Sussex Coast commuters might well think they’ll secure seats in the morning, but that will not be the case after a wearying day at the office as they face the free-for-all evening crush out of London.


The capacity crisis in the south is about much more than cramming as many people ‘Hong Kong style’ into a train. Longer-distance commuters shouldn’t be considered in the same manner as London’s suburban travellers who are generally content with 20-minute hop-on/off journeys around the capital.


The real challenge, which has persistently been ducked by all Governments for decades, is providing more track capacity. This will not only allow more trains to run, but provide a whole variety of new and current destinations on an enlarged network that is far more robust, flexible and resilient in operation.


In all other respects, the new trains will be comfortable and doubtless extremely reliable – after all they are being designed and built in Germany. But let’s not forget that no matter how swish or potentially fast these new Thameslink trains might be, or how many people can be packed in, they will remain just as vulnerable to the problems afflicting the BML today. It seems hardly a week goes by without ‘Major Disruption’ somewhere on the Sussex Route.  


Until recently, Network Rail has shown little interest in providing Brighton and the Sussex Coast with a second main line to London. In 2008 it bullishly rejected any need to have another route to share the load and also be there for all those many occasions when the BML goes down. Back then, boasting about its ‘Seven Day Railway’ concept, it confidently predicted:


“Such closures occur on up to 8 occasions per year, usually on winter Sundays when demand is lowest. Due to the nature of the track layout between Three Bridges and East Croydon, complete closures are required only rarely and generally are programmed for the Christmas holiday period.”


Six years on and after countless incidents at great cost to its ‘customers’ and businesses its words ring hollow:


“Such closures are thankfully rare, and Network Rail is working to further improve performance in order for such closures to be eliminated as far as is practicable.”


It also rather ruthlessly pointed out: “The benefit to the industry of providing an alternative route in the event of an emergency total closure is the avoidance of compensation to passengers for cancelled trains and delayed journeys.”


Because Network Rail perceived no value in a secondary route, it decided against factoring this into the Uckfield line reopening study:  “Given the rare occurrence of total closures, and the relatively low level of cost avoided, this has not been included within the business case.”

Sussex commuters and train operators might take a different view….


Fairly soon Network Rail is to give the Transport Secretary its report on delivering more capacity between London and the Sussex Coast.


If this does not take into consideration the immense benefits appertaining to BML2 then it will continue failing millions in London and the South East.