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.









George Osborne says Conservatives will examine case for BML2

Brighton Seaford Railway


The South desperately needs a second Brighton Main Line – not a second main line to Seaford.


The Government's budget announced £100k for a new study on reopening the Uckfield line to the Sussex Coast. However, there is some confusion about what this means, whilst there are claims that this is nothing more than desperate electioneering.


Chancellor George Osborne is aware of the Sussex project, because he recently said: "The prospective conservative MP in Lewes, Maria Caulfield, is a strong advocate for a new BML2 line into London and we will look closely at its viability." Nevertheless, the budget document only says: 'The government will provide £100,000 for a further study into reopening the Lewes to Uckfield rail line' – which many in the rail industry and local authorities will regard as yet another tragic waste of time and money – given identical failures over forty years.


Let's be clear, BML2 is not a grandiose name for restoring an Uckfield–Lewes link. The unavoidable hindrance in every investigation, as we have been told for over thirty years, is that all Uckfield line trains heading south would now 'face the wrong way at Lewes' – that is towards Eastbourne or Seaford – instead of Brighton.


Any second Brighton line must have trains running as swiftly, directly and conveniently as possible between London and the City of Brighton & Hove. That's impossible if all passengers have to change onto other services at Lewes. Besides being time-consuming, previous studies have shown that reversing trains here would be problematical with conflicting movements.


This was also a conclusion of Network Rail's recent 2008 Lewes–Uckfield Report which threw up another major problem – East Croydon has no spare paths for extra services to run through here. The Brighton Line is full up, so the opportunities to increase route capacity between the Sussex Coast and London are virtually non-existent. Furthermore, even after Network Rail has had a go at ameliorating some of East Croydon's constraints in the 2020s, there still won't be any spare capacity at London termini – and certainly no more through the restrictive Thameslink core.


BML2 was devised in 2010 to address these fundamental problems over restoring Brighton's second main line and addressing the South East's severe lack of route capacity whereby more trains could run – in Kent as well as Sussex. A new direct line into Falmer and Brighton is essential. It is not only realistic and affordable, but irresistibly attractive with today's cost-effective tunnelling technology. It would provide the fastest, most direct and convenient alternative to the grossly-overloaded and unreliable Brighton Line. Lewes (Eastbourne and Seaford too) would gain new direct London connections too – something which can't happen with a purely 'Lewes–Uckfield' reopening.


The number of additional services possible between London and the Sussex Coast would increase enormously, as would passenger-carrying capacity, whilst the benefits of a realistic Brighton Line alternative would be truly incalculable. Only BML2 can deliver this.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on his visit to Lewes last week, said £2.4bn would be spent across the South Coast on specific transport investments – "a part of the country so often ignored, or left behind under previous governments". How very true. During Labour's last term, its Strategic Rail Authority told BBC reporter Paul Siegert, when he asked if the Government would support the Sussex reopening, was bluntly told: "No – there aren't any votes in it". On the other side of the coin, the Conservatives always know they'll win such southern constituencies anyway, whereby funding is invariably channelled towards marginal seats – rather than where it's needed.


Despite this, while in the County Town of East Sussex, George Osborne also pledged: "We will also examine a second Brighton main line that could help to ease congestion, speed-up journeys and provide regular direct trains to London from Seaford and Newhaven."


Challenging the Chancellor's announcement, former Transport Minister Norman Baker, who is defending his seat in Lewes, was scornful in Brighton's Argus: "Saying he is backing something weeks before the election is frankly a desperate attempt to get some votes. Tories are spraying money and promises around as they are losing the election."


Mr Baker insisted in the Sussex Express that the new £100,000 study was a result of his lobbying of Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury – "That is where the action is. George Osborne's words are simply a lot of pre-election hot air that means nothing."


Unfortunately, throughout this parliament Mr Baker has maintained his utmost opposition to Brighton being directly connected to the new Sussex main line and recently boasted to Sussex Express readers: "I will be discussing the terms of reference of the study with the Transport Secretary shortly."


Meanwhile, his attempts to cause controversy and unnecessary alarm in the run-up to the election over BML2's proposed tunnel under the South Downs have taken an unexpected turn. After deliberately making false claims in his election paper and in the Sussex Express about BML2 "requiring a massive tunnel under the town with all the disruption that would cause" he was challenged to show on a map, exactly which houses would be affected. Whereas Mr Baker has remained silent, an online statement from the Lewes Liberal Democrats has subsequently admitted: 'Tunnel from Uckfield–Brighton does not.'


Problems across the South's rail network are truly profound. They have been allowed to become so grotesque, so ignored, and so utterly unacceptable, that an investigation needs to be urgently undertaken into BML2, not 'Lewes–Uckfield' yet again.


The whole region's contribution to the national economy is so great, so vital, and so deserving, that it must have serious capital investment injected into providing Sussex, Kent and Surrey with BML2's restored main line links.


Whoever wins power after 7 May cannot afford to ignore it any longer.