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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.









Rail Minister admits Thameslink not long-term BML solution

At the Gatwick Hotel last year Network Rail chiefs told stakeholders:Sussex railways are the most congested in the UK. Landslides, tunnel closures, accidents and engineering blockades followed; then came Februarywhich commuters called amonth from hellas the Brighton Lines over-burdened vulnerability was exposed. Lord Bassam of Brighton wrote a compelling pieceSupport our plan to restore rail linebacking BML2, whilst last week headlines from fed-up citizens urged:Get behind BML2 if you want it to happen. Even March started badly with a major power failure near Gatwick which cut all rail connections between London and the Sussex Coast on Sunday.


Following last Septembers incident in Balcombe tunnel, Southerns MD Chris Burchell told us:We would like to have a more efficient diversionary route for the BML for times of major disruption and engineering work.At that time he said:the BML2 idea looks like it could help in these (hopefully) rare events of BML closure. Well, Chris, rare they havent been, as Network Rail, let alone thousands of unfortunate passengers, know to their considerable cost.


Chris Burchell also said:We would also like to have more capacity for trains from the South Coast into London such that a better balance for commuter services and airport services could be achieved for all routestaking into account improvements in capacity, performance, line speed and journey times.He added:Such idyllic aspirations can only be considered seriously if they are both affordable and viable.


Now, in a response to Brighton MP Simon Kirby, a keen supporter of BML2, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers acknowledges:The BML is one of a number of routes on which the provision of further capacity is difficult.She goes on to warn that the Thameslink 12-car trains when delivered in 2015will be a useful medium-term contribution to BMLbut says thiswill not on its own, provide a long-term solution.


We have seen several versions of how BML2 might connect to one of the main lines that could feed trains into a London terminusshe told Mr. Kirby, adding:Unfortunately none of these versions connect to a route that is not already completely full in the peak. There are no spare train slots into either Victoria or London Bridge at peak times. This means that the BML2 proposal, in its current form, fails to satisfy its primary purpose of providing rush-hour relief to BML1. Until or unless a solution to this problem is found there would be no point in carrying out a thorough review of the BML2 proposal.


Many will challenge this analysis, but we hardly expected to find spare train slots into London termini because there will always be services to fill any going spare. As someone said, there are no spare slots for HS2 trains into Euston, but that isnt a barrier to the Government. In the south its a matter of allocation, using available slots wisely and ensuring maximum value is obtained. But even without a London-end solution, BML2s additional routes to both Brighton and Tunbridge Wells would be of inestimable valueand not just during disruptions which now occur on a regular basis.


The whole point of BML2 is that it can run more trains and carry thousands more people from Sussex, as well as from Tunbridge Wells to within a few miles of the City of London. It circumvents all Network Rails insuperable bottlenecks andmajor barriers to growthalong the congested Brighton and Tonbridge main lines. It shrinks the massive long-distance problems to a more manageable short-distance solution.


Theresa Villiers expressed personal thoughts by telling the Brighton MP:Im sorry to send such a disappointing answer, but the bottlenecks into the big London stations do seem to pose a barrier which its not currently possible for the BML2 scheme to get over.


Thameslink 2015 is a stop-gap and Network Rail says by 2020 rising BML usage will cancel out this intermediate capacity, so conditions will be no better than today. Its just as bad in Kent where the TonbridgeOrpington section severely constrains growth.


BML2s Project Manager said:I do believe Theresa Villiers is genuinely concerned, but well willingly present our case if she is prepared to listen. We have to start planning now because time is running out. Double-deck and 16-car trains are ruled-out for good reasons, whilst there is nothing else on the table apart from pricing people off rush-hour trains in the vague hope of creating more room. It cant be right that only the well-off will be able to afford travelling to work between 8 and 9. The South is crying out for a larger and more robust network with new strategic connections, not just for when things go wrong, but supporting additional services so everyone can travel into work at a reasonable hour. Realistically, only BML2 can provide this affordable expansion. As for London-end connections, we have some ideas, so maybe the time has come for some radical solutions that could be spectacularly money-spinning.