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.









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.