Ministerial backing for Brighton Main Line 2
Published on Monday, 24 March 2014 07:05
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.’