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.











Missing Link


A wasting asset closed in 1969 and just several miles in length – the South’s most notorious ‘missing link’.



Moves to create the south’s new main line into London are gathering pace. Three distinct developments have occurred in the past few weeks which have propelled the Brighton Main Line 2 project further forward.


The Bow Group, the intellectual Conservative think tank, has published Reviving Britain’s Railways, urging Government to be less obsessed with HS2 and instead start building high-impact schemes to deliver more capacity into the UK rail network. Citing disastrous rail closures carried out in the 1960s which need urgent attention, the Bow Group Report focuses on the South East’s most notorious:


‘Commuters are crammed together as they battle to get to work in the capital. However, by coincidence, a parallel line used to run from London to Brighton – and whilst it now ends part way through Sussex, £350m would see the Wealden Line revived and the opening of Brighton Main Line 2. That would be the type of investment which would alleviate the woes of many commuters from Brighton to London, opening up rail capacity, and providing an effective service which could be fit for the future. The suggested overall project for the Wealden Line would even go further. As well as the Brighton Main Line 2, the campaign group behind the proposals would see a branch connection to Tunbridge Wells, and the opening of smaller lines in South London. The scheme, which has been supported by the Brighton & Hove Conservative Group Leader and local Conservative MP Simon Kirby, could transform rail travel across Sussex. It could also begin to address some of the connectivity issues which make travel a logistical challenge if trying to reach a station on a different main route, without travelling to London and back out again.’


This report follows George Osborne’s personal intervention this summer of ordering a full investigation into BML2 as well as his appointment of Lord Adonis to head the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). Andrew Adonis is a close friend and party associate of Lord Steve Bassam of Brighton – a keen and longstanding proponent of BML2 who speaks passionately about the need to revive Brighton’s second main line.


Resigning the Labour Whip in the House of Lords in order to chair the NIC, Lord Adonis is now perfectly placed to push BML2 to the very heart of the commission as an easily deliverable scheme initiating the Chancellor’s plan to get Britain building. Only two years ago, Lord Adonis proclaimed it was: “stark staring obvious that the second mainline to London is needed”. His thinking has now been echoed by the Conservative’s Bow Group because in 2013 he declared:  “The loss of Brighton's second main line via Uckfield and the direct London services it provided was a massive error of the 1960s. It needs to be reversed.”


At that time, Lord Adonis helpfully explained his strategy: “Substantially increasing capacity into our cities remains the industry's greatest challenge. Brighton Main Line 2, by reconnecting Brighton with London as one seamless journey, has the potential to do this and is therefore a strong contender for serious investment because it would strengthen the existing overloaded network.”


In other developments, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin delivered the Terms of Reference for the £100k ‘London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study’, specifically sanctioned by George Osborne. The DfT’s Terms of Reference for the Study are both extensive and demanding. It begins: ‘The Brighton Main Line (BML) is a critical link in rail travel between London and the South Coast. However, known network infrastructure constraints compromise the on-time performance of services along this corridor; metrics such as the Public Performance Measure are below the national average’ [late-running trains].


Commendably acknowledging the growing problem, it says: ‘Given strong ongoing demand for rail services between London and the South Coast, the Government will appoint a consultant to evaluate the strategic case for investment in existing and new rail capacity along this corridor.’


The contract has since been awarded to WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff (WSP PB). With time of the utmost essence, key representatives from the BML2 Project Group were last week invited to the consultants’ London headquarters to give a presentation on the scheme to WSP PB’s appointed Project Director, Project Manager and Technical Lead in what was a wide-ranging and scrutinising meeting.


The time allowed for the report is extremely short (before Christmas) whilst three categories are specified: Part A – Demand for services; Part B – Proposals to address demand and their feasibility; and Part C – the priorities for investment in the short, medium and long term.


Part A will look at demand based on rail industry projections as well as housing and commercial developments now taking place. In this respect, WSP PB is meeting local authorities, as well as those industries critically affected by the BML, notably Gatwick Airport.


Part B will consider the currently proposed modifications to the BML (and associated routes) by Network Rail, Transport for London, etc. This section also calls for a full description for ‘entirely new or largely new lines between the South Coast and London, including concepts such as BML2’.


In consideration of building the second main line between the capital and the Sussex coast, the consultants are being asked to investigate its feasibility; how it would respond to demand; its design factors (including the new route’s interaction with current lines); the availability of land and if there are any tunnelling constraints.


This section must also consider operational impacts, journey time savings, passenger flows into London terminals and resilience benefits offered by BML2 in times of disruption. Costs are also expected to be assessed, whilst the Government is also interested to learn to what extent the private sector might be willing to participate in building these new rail links.


Part C aims to determine priorities, ranging from the short (5-10 years); to medium (10-20 years); to long term (20+ years). Any potential conflicts between these priorities will also need to be assessed and resolved.


A 90-minute BML2 presentation to WSP PB featured current problems afflicting both the Brighton and Tonbridge main lines and the extraordinary high demand which is rapidly pushing these routes deeper into crisis. It was explained that its three phases (Sussex, Kent and London) are interdependent, but range widely in engineering complexity and cost. The Sussex Phase is straightforward in engineering terms and would immediately deliver wide-scale benefits right from the day it opens. Absolutely nothing can be gained by delaying its implementation any longer, but there is much to lose, particularly in terms of the South’s economy – as many others have pointed out.


WSP PB was told the same applies to Kent, which would regain its second main line between Tunbridge Wells and London, so regrettably closed in 1969. This would simultaneously restore regional connections to Brighton and the Sussex Coast – and deliver those “immense local benefits” mentioned by Lord Adonis in 2013. Besides providing realistic relief to the increasingly overloaded Tonbridge Main Line, this phase will open up strategic twenty-first century routes directly into the capital’s financial heartland.


It was then explained the London Phase is unquestionably the most multifaceted and costly to deliver; however, its commercial and social value would far exceed its capital outlay. This phase would reap the highest rewards, not just in terms of passenger benefits, but economic regeneration and growth across East London and its business centre at Canary Wharf. A particular BML2 bonus (also termed ‘Thameslink 2’) must be taken into account –  its ability to remove vast quantities of unwanted central London congestion from London Bridge, Blackfriars, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, etc.


Gatwick and Stansted airports would be particular beneficiaries with direct, faster and increased connections to Canary Wharf, Stratford International and Crossrail. Linking these two London airports seamlessly together with one dedicated fast rail service through East London would be possible with BML2. Building such fundamental infrastructure is critically important in terms of securing both airports’ future well-being and prosperity – especially if London Heathrow is granted expansion through a third runway.


We have a rail network struggling to manage demand; public clamour for more train services and better journeys; a private sector keen to invest in infrastructure; and a Chancellor keen to get Britain building again.


There’s never been a better time to start building BML2.