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 promotes Brighton Main Line 2 Project


Uckfield Buffer Stop


This closed main line from London to Lewes and Brighton should be growing traffic – not trees.



After January’s meeting with Rail Minister Claire Perry, when the far-reaching benefits of BML2 were discussed, George Osborne was accordingly briefed. The chancellor subsequently committed funding in his spring budget towards a proper investigation into reopening the region’s second main line to the Sussex Coast.


However, there was some lingering uncertainty over what might be investigated, despite George Osborne himself being unequivocal and, promising just before May’s general election, to start a feasibility study into Brighton Main Line 2.


Since being elected, two new Sussex MPs Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) and Maria Caulfield (Lewes) have expressed a specific interest in the south’s ailing rail system and are working closely together. Only recently, Maria Caulfield briefed Treasury officials about BML2 and presented them with documentation on the project.


She also sought clarification from the Department for Transport over their proposed scoping of the new £100k study and received a statement from department officials. In this the DfT began by saying ‘In recent years stakeholders have suggested that the Lewes – Uckfield line could provide a valuable alternative route between London and the south coast during disruption on the Brighton Main Line’.


‘Recent years’? – in truth, people and politicians have been saying this for more than 46 years, whilst the route is needed all the time – not just during disruption!


The DfT reiterated Network Rail’s view that “large scale investment in alternative routes in the outer (southern) area of the BML would likely be of very limited value in the short to medium term.” DfT officials seem to share the view that reopening is part of a longer term strategy. In other words, the situation has got to get even worse, whilst Network Rail is still trying to solve bottlenecks in Croydon and central London.


As a result, the DfT therefore thought that the new study could be restricted to the following three conditions:


1) The opportunities that the reopening of the Lewes–Uckfield line could offer in terms of local journeys. This would consist of a market study looking at the demand for local journeys along the immediate Lewes–Uckfield corridor as well as neighbouring areas.’


2) The strategic contribution the reopening of the line could make during times of disruption to the BML, both planned and unplanned.


3) Consideration of the capital funding options, in the event that a case was identified for reopening the line. Key to this would be an assessment of the split of local and national funding, reflecting on the findings of the first two elements of the study.


To begin with, the reopening of this strategic section has virtually nothing to do with ‘local journeys’ – it is one link in a very long chain. A 15-minute interval bus service operates between Lewes and Uckfield, whereupon any ‘market study’ based on such a narrow principle would come to an extremely negative conclusion. But that’s precisely the answer the DfT would prefer.


On the second point, we already know it would be impossible to construct a strong enough business case purely as a diversionary route. Although the line could be helpful ‘at times of major perturbation’ – to use Network Rail’s terminology – the economic validation wouldn’t be sanctioned.


Regarding the third point, the chances of obtaining any contribution towards reopening a Lewes–Uckfield link from ‘local funding’ (i.e. East Sussex County Council) are risible and even more remote than Greece paying off its national debt by Christmas. ESCC has always been hostile to this project and has said as much in numerous statements, ever since it managed to engineer the line’s closure for its Lewes Relief Road scheme in the 1960s.


Such a proposed scoping demonstrates that some obdurate Network Rail managers and DfT chiefs remain unwilling, or unable, to grasp the concept of BML2 and its wide and hugely beneficial implications for London and the South East. It’s little wonder that we find the South’s badly-overloaded rail network in such an unhappy predicament today.


BML2 is not about huge public-purse spending to run a few more subsidised trains, but a business-minded strategy of opening-up specific strategic links to tap into guaranteed profitable markets.


Fearing what might happen if left to Network Rail, we contacted our two new MPs, who in turn raised the issue with Rail Minister Claire Perry. Nusrat Ghani responded:

“I’m pleased to let you know that Maria and I met with Claire Perry last week to discuss various issues with our rail service in Wealden and beyond. She confirmed that the Department for Transport is beginning to scope a study into BML2, as per the Chancellor’s statement. (our emphasis)


In last Wednesday’s budget we were extremely pleased to read that George Osborne had acted swiftly and decisively in determining Government policy. Under the heading ‘Securing a truly national recovery’ the chancellor demonstrated he knows what he’s talking about:


Brighton Main Line: The government will extend the scope of the Lewes–Uckfield study to look at improving rail links between London and the south coast, including upgrades to existing routes, consideration of the Brighton Main Line corridor, and re-examination of the DfT’s feasibility study on BML2.


This is a significant step forward because it shows that for the first time ever, the Government appears prepared to take BML2 seriously and is willing to listen and be convinced of its widespread merits.


Despite a fair amount being spoken about the creation of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the chancellor is well aware of the massive contribution the already-existing ‘Southern Powerhouse’ injects every day into the national economy of Great Britain. The role of rail in London and the South East is absolutely critical to its continuing growth and success.


Isn’t it about time Network Rail and senior DfT officials woke up to this fact and started taking BML2 as seriously as the new Government?