BML2 needs a Champion
Created on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 01:00
Published on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 01:00
Support for BML2 is growing as senior politicians, transport journalists and associates in the rail industry increasingly realize its enormous potential, opportunities and wide-ranging advantages. Now, the popular and widely-read bi-monthly journal RAIL publishes an eight-page in-depth analysis of the project, written by one of the country’s foremost and widely-respected transport correspondents.
Following an interview with project manager Brian Hart, Steve Broadbent presents his thoughtful and compelling appraisal of the whole concept, suggesting that Network Rail, train operators and the Government should be taking BML2 far more seriously. He, for one, has come to the conclusion that the scheme “solves the BML conundrum” and has the potential to not only dramatically increase capacity, but improve performance and connections across an increasingly congested South East.
The railways are booming in popularity as never before, yet, paradoxically, the outlook is bleak. The Government, which retains its stranglehold over the railways, is facing a stark choice – either tactically invest in expanding the South East’s rail network to accommodate this growth – or massively raise fares to choke-off demand. Worryingly, at the moment, the latter option seems to have the upper hand, which has prompted a senior and influential Labour peer to voice his strong opposition. In January, Lord Bassam of Brighton, spoke at an event at the City’s busy station, saying “I don’t think we are getting value for money” and he tells RAIL that commuters shouldn’t be penalised as they drive the economy. He now expresses his staunch support for BML2, describing it to be “a highly commendable scheme”, not just because it’s the only way of relieving pressure on the Brighton Line, but essential in vastly improving Brighton’s connections and thereby opening up tremendous opportunities for the ever-popular city, as well as London and the South East.
Steve Broadbent explores possible opportunities to enable BML2 to significantly augment cross-London connections, not just as an integral part of Thameslink, but providing better access to Crossrail, which is currently under construction – and even a future HS2. Steve says: “BML2 has national implications and should be treated as a prospective High Level Output Specification project, or the Brighton Line’s problems will never be cured, save by pricing people off the trains”.
Providing room for future growth on the Tonbridge route is also featured, which BML2 would do by reintroducing main line services between London and Tunbridge Wells via Oxted. At least four peak hour trains could operate from a marvellously transformed Tunbridge Wells West, which would return as the Royal Borough’s premier station – famously dubbed the ‘St. Pancras of the Weald’ by the Wealden Line Campaign. As with the Brighton Line, Brian Hart tells Steve Broadbent: “BML2 is the only feasible way to substantially increase capacity in the area, there is nothing else that comes remotely near doing what is needed”. He stresses it’s not about Network Rail spending large sums of money now, but simply getting down to making some serious strategic and planning decisions, using existing in-house manpower and resources, adding: “It’s time Network Rail showed us what they can do – and if they’re really up to the job”.
Steve Broadbent is indisputably impressed with the project, as he admits in his extensive article, believing BML2 deserves “close and sympathetic scrutiny so rail’s benefits are most widely spread” and concluding: “Above all, BML2 now needs a champion, a catalyst, to take it forward”
‘Brighton: a brighter future?’ appears in issue 669 of RAIL magazine and will be on newsagents’ shelves across the UK on Wednesday 4th May.