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.









Osborne urged to start supporting Brighton Main Line 2

BML1 Sussex Main Line 

The BML – a route at bursting point. Sussex desperately needs its secondary main line to both Lewes and Brighton restored.


Sussex Conservatives are backing BML2 and urging Chancellor George Osborne to do likewise.


Following the publication of Network Rail's draft Sussex Area Route Study, which intends trying to pack even more people and trains onto an already overloaded and poorly-funded system, reaction has ranged from dismay to outrage. The crush will become particularly acute on the South's premier main line, whilst the fact that Sussex is still denied its desperately-needed secondary route between London and the South Coast is deemed unacceptable.


Now, Cllr Geoffrey Theobald OBE, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton & Hove City Council, has succinctly summed up the frustration and feelings of countless thousands of Sussex people by issuing this statement:


"The seemingly never-ending cycle of weekend engineering works on the Brighton to London mainline – shutting down 20 miles of track between Three Bridges and Brighton – has highlighted once again how desperately we need a second direct route between our city and the capital.


At October's Conservative Party Conference I made a point of speaking to the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP – to highlight the increasingly strong economic case for BML2. She quite rightly pointed out that a lot of money has been spent in recent years on the existing line – not least the current Thameslink upgrading – which is of course very welcome. However, these improvements in themselves don't address the fundamental problems of lack of capacity and lack of a quick and reliable alternative in the Sussex part of the route when BML1 shuts down.


The performance of trains on BML1 is poor and set to get worse. Last month, over 20% of Southern's trains failed to make it to their destination on time. The Managing Director of Southern recently described it as "a tough bit of railway to operate. Capacity and performance are at odds..." If this isn't a plea for a second Brighton to London mainline then I don't know what is.


Things are not going to get any better. Network Rail's London and South East Market Study predicts 64% growth in passenger numbers by 2023 and a more than doubling by 2043. Network Rail themselves conclude that "It is no longer viable to continue to add incremental additional services to the route as it is currently configured."


All of which makes it baffling in the extreme that BML2 is barely even mentioned in Network Rail's draft Sussex Area Route Study, currently out for consultation. This study looks at options for addressing problems on the current line such as train lengthening and putting on additional services. But longer and more frequent trains are no help when the line is closed because of flooding/landslips/signal failure/suicide/engineering work.


Despite this, I am optimistic that the case for BML2 is gaining traction. In response to a Parliamentary question from Simon Kirby MP – a keen supporter of BML2 – Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond, said that the Government is actively considering it as a viable option. Former Labour Transport Minister, Lord Adonis, said recently that it is "stark staring obvious that the second mainline to London is needed".


And Lewes MP, Norman Baker, one of the most vociferous and influential opponents of BML2 is no longer a Government Minister.


To paraphrase that famous British Rail advert from the 1980s – this is well and truly the age of the train. The High Speed Rail link from London to Paris has been a spectacular success; Crossrail – Europe's largest construction project – will provide a long-awaited connection between east and west London; and a new High Speed Rail Link 2 (and even HS3) promises to bring greater prosperity to the Midlands and Northern England.


There is no doubt that the current Government understands the economic imperative for investing in new rail infrastructure, but unless the nettle is grasped over BML2, Brighton & Hove, and the whole of Sussex, is in danger of getting stuck in a siding.


Brighton & Hove is a city on the up. Our population is growing at a rapid rate; visitor numbers are on a similar trajectory. The i360 will bring in hundreds of thousands more tourists when it is completed in a couple of years' time. The success of the Greater Brighton City Deal in attracting new Government funding means that large new regeneration schemes are now in the pipeline. All of these welcome developments will push up demand for fast, efficient and reliable train travel still further.


Last week we heard the fantastic news that the Government is set to make significant new investment in one of the key arterial roads through Sussex – the A27. This is extremely welcome and long overdue but if we are to have a truly integrated and sustainable transport network, it must go hand in hand with improvements to the rail infrastructure.


The Chancellor's Autumn Statement would be a great time for us to get some good news on BML2!"


Throughout this parliament the Wealden Line Campaign has worked hard in attempting to build a forceful all-party political consensus in the south, with the specific aim of attracting Government interest and support for BML2. Whilst we have managed to unite Conservative and Labour politicians for the common good, our efforts have yet again been undermined by the recently-resigned Home Office Minister, Norman Baker. In a complaint published in the Sussex Express, Lewes's Lib Dem MP criticised the project as well as his rival Conservative candidate for promoting BML2.


He accused local and national people of unfairly misrepresenting him, before criticising Maria Caulfield because – "she has backed BML2, a scheme which would go straight from Uckfield to Brighton, bypassing Lewes (we will get a spur if we are lucky) but requiring a massive tunnel under the town with all the disruption that would cause."


Despite our many efforts to explain the project to him, Norman Baker remains convinced there is a conspiracy to tunnel under Lewes, but as we've always shown, BML2's Ashcombe tunnel runs beneath downland to the west – as our website document 'Why only BML2 can benefit Lewes' openly shows.


Even in 2012, when a Transport Minister, he told the journal RAIL that he was receiving messages from anxious residents about "tunnelling under people's houses". Whether such deliberate misrepresentation is designed to serve his purpose of causing wholly unnecessary alarm and opposition we can't fathom, but it applies to his equally peculiar belief that BML2 trains from London would not serve Lewes, Eastbourne and Seaford.


We are also repeatedly asked how Norman Baker can be such a keen advocate of High Speed 2, yet describe BML2 as being "very controversial – and the last thing we want is a controversial line." Neither can anyone understand how, when Transport Minister, he overrode concerns about HS2 by announcing – "a new tunnel through West London, key design changes at Euston station and a new tunnel at Bromford, near Birmingham" – yet vociferously campaigns against a new railway tunnel in his own constituency.


Here in the Wealden Line Campaign's 29th year, the greatest tragedy from our perspective has been the wasted opportunity of the past five years. In 1998, when Labour MP Glenda Jackson was appointed to the Department for Transport as Transport Minister, an elated Norman Baker told us: "The door is open – all we have to do is walk through". Yet, twelve years later and by a quirk of political fate he became a Transport Minister, despite everyone's great expectation he walked into the DfT – and firmly shut the door in our face.


Throughout his tenure as both Transport Minister and Home Office Minister he has, to our great regret and dismay, taken every opportunity, at LibDem political meetings in Croydon, on BBC Sussex Radio, Meridian television, in national railway journals and in newspapers, to exert his influence against such an important project for Sussex.


In spite of this we are extremely grateful to have the continuing strong support of Brighton, and politicians from opposite sides. The South's railway system urgently needs expanding to manage unprecedented soaring growth and Sussex – as Geoffrey Theobald so rightly says – must not be left behind.