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.









Senior Labour Peers briefed on Thameslink 2 at House of Lords


Thameslink2 Skyline


BML2’s Thameslink 2 phase through the eastern capital is gaining strong support.



Following on from January’s presentation to Conservative Rail Minister Claire Perry, Labour Peers Lord Andrew Adonis and Lord Bassam of Brighton have been given an updated briefing about BML2. In particular, this focused on its high-value Thameslink 2 aspect. The problems on the Brighton Line are extremely serious, whilst the Labour Party is targeting all three of the Sussex city’s seats in the hope of winning them back.


Coincidentally the meeting occurred at an especially apposite time, during which media attention has been drawn to the utterly chaotic events at London Bridge station. The problems here cannot all be blamed on reconstruction work, however necessary, commendable and impressive this may be. Unfortunately the fundamental predicament will not be solved by the current Thameslink Programme, due for completion in a few years’ time.
Acknowledgement of this surfaced in a communication from Southern who advised: “the revised infrastructure has struggled to deliver the timetable”. It was further explained that modelling by Network Rail of the new reduced track layout: “showed that we should be able to run a maximum of 22 trains per hour. However, as the service intensifies during the peaks, particularly in the evening, we have found that trains gradually become later because minor delays lead to trains queueing approaching the station which then creates more significant delays. In practice therefore, we have simply not been able to get this number of trains into and out of London Bridge successfully during peak hours despite amending the train service in anticipation of the reduction.”  


Not so long ago, a rail boss despairingly commented that solving one bottleneck inevitably created another elsewhere. Such will occur at the already-hinted ‘Blackfriars bottleneck’ where Thameslink will attempt funnelling 24 trains per hour each way through two platforms. A similar warning is also being voiced by professional engineering companies involved in Crossrail, where Thameslink will interconnect at Farringdon. Worryingly, volume of usage, they say, has been substantially underestimated.


Apart from the Labour Peers at the House of Lords briefing, were strategic business representatives who expressed very strong interest in seeing Thameslink 2 happen. They clearly appreciate the immeasurable benefits and commercial opportunities the scheme would bring to London and, in particular, the eastern side of the capital. It wasn’t for nothing that rail industry representatives suggested to us at a BML2 presentation a couple of years ago that the London Phase would be the primary generator of the whole project.


Meanwhile, the Chancellor George Osborne has promised the Government will look at the viability of BML2. He said Government needs to do more to unlock the area’s potential, adding: “This means investing in infrastructure”. Writing in the Sussex Express, and subsequent to the BML2 presentation at Lewes given to Claire Perry, he specifically said the Government needs: “to look at the bold ideas you have for connectivity in London – the prospective Conservative MP in Lewes, Maria Caulfield, is a strong advocate for a new BML2 line into London.”


Countering this initiative, Lewes’s sitting MP, Lib Dem Norman Baker, has intensified his personal campaign against BML2 as part of his election manifesto. In a newspaper-style publication entitled ‘South Downs Observer’ delivered to thousands of households in Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven, Polegate etc, he again attacked his Conservative opponent for supporting BML2. Many residents appear to have been hoodwinked by this journal, masquerading as an independent newspaper, in which Mr Baker told constituents: “Lewes–Uckfield reinstatement is, it is important to note, different from the so-called BML2 scheme, supported by the Tory parliamentary candidate. Apart from being hugely expensive, this would run direct from Uckfield to Brighton, so bypassing Lewes. It would need a huge amount of tunnelling under the town, with all the disruption that would cause”.


Throughout his 3½ years as Transport Minister Norman Baker attempted damaging BML2 by politicising it, in direct opposition of our aim of uniting politicians of all parties to work collectively for the benefit of Sussex and the wider South East. In October 2012 he told BBC journalist Paul Clifton in ‘RAIL’ magazine “I’m getting complaints from Lewes about tunnelling under people’s houses”. We have never seen any evidence of this and it seems to us that he has convinced himself with his own rhetoric.


BML2 specifically serves Lewes and Eastbourne as much as Brighton, whilst to say it tunnels beneath the town is utterly untrue. Consequently, we were obliged to defend BML2 against such falsehood, as well as defend those (of any political persuasion) who support the project. Writing in the Sussex Express, Brian Hart said Mr. Baker was “perfectly entitled to be extremely sceptical about BML2 but, devoid of valid arguments, shouldn’t resort to untruthful tactics”. It was pointed out that his electioneering ‘South Downs Observer’ was deceitful because he unnecessarily alarmed residents by claiming BML2 tunnels under the town, and saying this was “a deliberate lie”.


The ex-minister immediately got on to the Sussex Express whereby its content editor said: “Dear Mr Hart, I refer to your letter published in this week's Sussex Express in which you accuse Mr Norman Baker of a deliberate lie. Mr Baker has complained about this statement which could be regarded as potentially defamatory. You have personal legal responsibility for your letter and I am inviting you to send in a further letter for publication which withdraws this claim and apologises. Failing this, the Sussex Express will publish a statement disassociating itself from any such inference.”


We replied that Mr Baker wasn’t above reproach, or at liberty to peddle falsehoods in order to scaremonger, causing unfounded alarm with the deliberate intention of taking away votes from his political contender. If anything was pejorative, it was Mr Baker’s assertions in his ‘newspaper’. Furthermore, the only person deserving an apology is Ms Caulfield, whilst Mr Baker should also be obliged to withdraw his false assertion that BML2 tunnels beneath the town.


But we know that isn’t going to happen. The Sussex Express felt unable to publish our response; instead printing a needless statement disassociating itself from the views of its readers.


The enduring problems on the south’s railways are profound and beleaguered commuters and rail users (of all political persuasions!) need influential leaders to unite in securing investment in expanding the most overloaded and congested system in the UK. The current practice of loading more trains onto a diminished system without expanding the rail network is unsustainable.


The divisive tactics being deployed by the Lib Dems to denigrate BML2 are deplorable. The fundamental afflictions plaguing the Brighton Line – and the equally important Tonbridge Line too – will never be resolved without implementing BML2 and in particular its tremendously beneficial Thameslink 2 adjunct, which the Lib Dems also oppose, but which London desperately needs.


It will not matter one jot who runs the trains – the current private operators, Transport for London, or a nationalized body – because the chaos will continue until there is more track on the ground, new cross-capital routes and connections enabling more trains to operate.


We’ve said it countless times in the past and we’ll say it again – we need a bigger network – it’s BML2 or bust!