Latest 2018 BML2 Project Publication

Design2158 What BML2 will do for

Kent and Tunbridge wells

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Rail Minister sees potential of Thameslink 2 across London

Rail Minister at Lewes with BML2


Michael Lunn, Conservative campaigner; Maria Caulfield, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate;

Rail Minister Claire Perry MP; Gordon Pratt, Thameslink 2; and Brian Hart, BML2, at the recent presentation in Lewes.




The Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, has been given a briefing about the massive potential of Thameslink 2. This is part of the more extensive BML2 Project which has beneficial implications right across the south.


On a visit to Lewes this month, she met Conservative Parliamentary candidate Maria Caulfield and local Conservative campaigner Michael Lunn to examine and discuss the multiple problems affecting Sussex and in particular the Brighton Line.


A twenty-minute presentation on BML2 was given to the Minister, briefly explaining why the removal of key secondary routes over past decades had forced both the Brighton and Tonbridge main lines into capacity crises. Particular emphasis was on the role of BML2’s Ashcombe tunnel beneath the South Downs so that fast trains could once again run directly between Brighton and London via Uckfield. This would answer the industry’s forty-year project-killer that has caused all previous reopening studies to founder because, otherwise, ‘trains would face the wrong way at Lewes’.


Focus then moved to the London end, where it was explained that Network Rail’s insuperable Croydon bottleneck required a far more radical solution. Project manager Brian Hart explained that two additional platforms proposed at East Croydon would be inadequate for the overall capacity challenges facing Network Rail as rising demand will overtake this extra capacity. Instead, the Minister was shown the need to strip-out the unnecessary congestion of people and trains not wanting, or stopping, at East Croydon, with a new link towards London.


A new ‘X-shaped’ crossover near South Croydon would allow all Sussex trains (via Uckfield, Haywards Heath, Horsham etc) to reach Victoria, London Bridge or Canary Wharf. If desired, there would also be an opportunity to create a newer, larger purpose-built interchange termed ‘Croydon Gateway’ with more platforms and separated fast lines. This would create alternative routes for trains and give passengers greater choices over London destinations.


Gordon Pratt spoke of the opportunities which this phase, known as Thameslink 2 (TL2), could provide, not only to the business sector at Canary Wharf, but to the regeneration and fast-developing growth within London Boroughs across the eastern Thames. The key to unlocking TL2 was the central core between Lewisham – Canary Wharf – Stratford which would provide a north-south axis at Canary Wharf and London’s Crossrail. He also pointed out that the proposed Bakerloo Line extension represented a significant and exciting opportunity to embrace TL2 and deliver something of far greater worth for the capital.


Brian Hart referred briefly to the rebuilding at London Bridge which he said was clearly necessary as part of the Thameslink Programme and praised those involved in this stupendous engineering challenge which would eventually bring great benefits to the system and passengers.


Nevertheless, he reminded the Minister and the guests that engineering consultancy Arup had already warned that demand at Farringdon in 2018 had been seriously underestimated, whilst the ‘Blackfriars bottleneck’ was a term already being bandied about in the railway press.  


Gordon and Brian emphasised the daily blocking of London Bridge caused by many thousands of commuters who worked in the environs of the Wharf, but were forced to travel into central London. The capital's east-west Crossrail would change travel patterns, whilst leaving Blackfriars Thameslink as the only north-south through line in this area was short-sighted and simply creating a new bottleneck.  


Michael Lunn said he very much welcomed Claire Perry’s attendance: “– to see the benefits the BML2 scheme would bring to Sussex with a substantial increase in direct rail services between London, Brighton, Falmer, Lewes, Eastbourne and Seaford.”


He mentioned that apart from operating more services, a direct alternative to the increasingly overcrowded and badly-congested Brighton Line was required – “Only BML2 can do this” he said.


He added: “We must also build a new rail connection across East London with Thameslink 2 so that excessive congestion in central London may be avoided.”


Rail Minister Claire Perry listened very attentively and fired many probing questions; afterwards thanking those involved and requesting a copy of the presentation and the projected costs for BML2’s Sussex Phase.
Elsewhere in the news and writing in the Daily Mail in late December, Michael Williams drew attention to rising demand, saying: “Passengers on today’s London to Brighton line, for instance, are forced to travel in sardine-like conditions — so grim they would be illegal under EU law for the transport of animals.”


He continued: “The Company’s panjandrums argue that the tracks can’t be updated without closing entire routes for several days because there are no alternatives.” This is certainly true on the Brighton Line, where even an overnight ‘slot’ of several hours is out of the question. Michael Williams then went on to cite BML2 by saying:


“Yet running parallel is an alternative line, once also leading to Brighton, which peters out abruptly at the buffers in the middle of rural Sussex. Restoring the missing link, axed in 1969, would be relatively simple, costing a mere £350 million, compared with the £50 billion cost of HS2.”


Regrettably, countering such support, Lewes’s Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, yet again used his influence against the Sussex project by seemingly alerting his party colleagues at Croydon. Local Lib Dem activist John Jefkins MBE (who presented his petition opposing BML2 last year to Baroness Kramer) roundly criticized the scheme in a letter to the Sussex Express, asserting BML2 would see “100 homes destroyed”. As well as being untrue, this is just as alarmist as Norman Baker’s recent claim that the new Sussex line within his constituency would require “a massive tunnel under the town with all the disruption that would cause."
John Jefkins MBE further claimed BML2 “hinders Norman Baker as he campaigns for Lewes–Uckfield to reopen” and dismissed Thameslink 2 by telling Sussex Express readers: “Any politician instead backing BML2’s extra London costs and bypassed market deserves scorn.”


Whether any politician backing BML2 or Thameslink 2 deserves scorn we’ll leave you to decide, but between now and the General Election we can be sure much will be said about the urgent need to sort out the enormous problems affecting the South’s congested, over-burdened and utterly inadequate rail system.