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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What price loyalty as Tories snub Baker?

“It is an absolute disgrace that the Government has failed to expand and improve the rail network in Sussex.” - Norman Baker MP (2003)


ITV reported that Sussex LibDem MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker was in Leeds yesterday (Monday) for the Government’s proclamation to spend £9.4 billion on railways. This was probably just as well, because none of this gargantuan amount of money is going towards expanding desperately-needed track capacity on the struggling and neglected South East network.


Norman Baker announced £560m would be spent on the ‘Northern Hub’ network – vastly improving rail links between Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, etc.  Network Rail says this scheme will add more than £4.2 billion of wider economic benefits to the north and create between 20,000 to 30,000 private sector jobs.


Meanwhile, alongside a smiling Nick Clegg, Prime Minister David Cameron claimed over £9 billion would be spent between 2014-2019 on “a fast, modern, reliable railway with more capacity and cleaner electric trains”. He then lambasted the previous Labour Government for “electrifying only 10 miles in 13 years” adding: “We can commit to over 850 more miles of electrified railway by 2019.”


However, sensible in-fill electrification is ruled out in the South East and people will have to put up with overcrowded diesel services because the Government won’t electrify just 25 miles of the Uckfield branch (or 32 miles if it is rejoined to Lewes and made a through main line once again). Consequently Southern’s over-stretched diesel fleet will continue to run over electrified lines for most of the journey in and out of London.  


Despite being described as “one of the biggest programmes of rail investment in the country” we know a great many people were anticipating Norman to deliver by ensuring that the South’s most-needed reopening project would feature somewhere – but they were sorely disappointed.


But no wonder Sheffield MP Nick Clegg is grinning from ear to ear. In May, Norman Baker announced £58m for a pilot scheme to run tram-trains around the city and said:  “Providing better connections between Sheffield and Rotherham’s city centres and residential areas will help to reinvigorate the local economy.” Now, as well as the Northern Hub, Sheffield will additionally benefit from the £800m electrification of the Midland Main Line from London.

 

Cynics may well be right in suspecting this is purely political manoeuvring – not just fears over marginal northern constituencies – but specifically aimed at keeping Nick Clegg and his coalition chums on board until parliamentary boundaries are changed when Norman Baker’s Lewes seat is carved up.


In 2010, when Norman Baker was unexpectedly swept into Government, the transport broadcaster and writer Christian Wolmar considered that a condition of Norman Baker’s participation in accepting ministerial office in the coalition should at least be the reopening of the 7 mile Sussex rail link because ever since entering the House of Commons in 1997 he seemed to spend most of his time spouting off about Lewes–Uckfield.


We know many people thought the South East stood a slim chance of at least a few crumbs from Justine Greening’s transport cake. But, as we know, when in opposition, the Conservative’s show all appropriate concern and do things like Rail Minister Theresa Villiers visiting Lewes to tell everyone “This is a matter of high importance”. And MPs such as Wealden’s Energy Minister Charles Hendry pour scorn on the (Labour) Government of the day by saying:  “It wants to build high-speed links between London and Edinburgh, when the real crisis in our rail system is in the overcrowded south-east.”


Tragically, yesterday’s announcement does nothing to avert the south’s acknowledged looming crisis on either the Brighton or Tonbridge Main Lines. Nor does it offer any solution to the problems of over-capacity, delays, lack of a much-needed alternative routes, etc and suggests nothing apart from pricing people off at busy peak times because the Government, which Norman Baker is sustaining by his collaboration, won’t invest in BML2.


Unfortunately, since taking office, Norman excuses himself from doing anything to help Sussex – as he recently reminded us: “You will, I hope, appreciate, that a minister is not allowed to use his or her position to advantage their constituency”. So that’s it then.


You might think that having become a Transport Minister he would garner some influence in his department and among his Conservative partners about a problem so great and profound which affects the lives of millions throughout Sussex, Surrey and Kent and about which he has spoken of so many times when in opposition.


But you must be the judge of that:-

“There is a severe problem with the train path capacity between Brighton and London. No more train paths are available because of the bottleneck at Haywards Heath and Balcombe. There is no way to get around the problem.” (2004)


“From the strategic point of view, the simplest and cheapest way to provide extra capacity between the south coast and London would be to reopen the Lewes-Uckfield line and use that link as an alternative route.” (2004)


“The case for reopening this line is overwhelming and any sane national transport policy would have achieved it by now.” (2005)


“It makes no sense, economically or otherwise, for the line from London Victoria to wind all the way down through Oxted to Uckfield, and stop just seven miles short of the Lewes junction.” (2004)


“It would make considerable sense from an integrated network point of view as it would link existing rail infrastructure at relatively little cost by means of new short stretches. That would improve the viability and profitability of the lines to which it connected.” (1998)


“I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the negativity of the Department for Transport, which refuses to recognise that there are now more rail passengers travelling each year than ever before, on a network about the half the size it was post-war, and react accordingly. Clearly we need more capacity on the network, and that must include reopening stations and sections of line that in most cases should never have been shut. Lewes-Uckfield is clearly one of those.” (2008)


“The reinstatement of the Lewes-Uckfield line represents one of my greatest ambitions. The logic is unquestionable and the issue won’t go away.” (2004)


“I have spent many years arguing for the reopening of this line which would have significant social, economic and environmental benefits to my constituents and I will continue to do so until such time as the Government sees common sense.” (2005)


“It makes absolute sense. It is something that the Government, in their wish to get real services back on track, should support.” (2004)


“Why is it so difficult to secure the reopening of a railway line which is relatively low cost and which would bring tremendous economic, social and environmental benefits?” (2004)


“Everyone who has looked at the matter in depth recognise the strategic value of the route. The proposal involves the most easily adaptable alternative route.” (2004)


“There is no doubt that the campaign to re-open is strong, because it makes so much sense. It is based on solid, common-sense arguments that the Government support as part of their policy.” (2004)


“The reopening of the Lewes - Uckfield line is something I have campaigned for locally for over twenty years. It is vitally needed, not just to link the two towns again, but also as a key building block in providing an alternative to the heavily congested Brighton main line.” (2010)


“It is my ambition to be at the reopening of the Lewes-Uckfield railway line. I intend to continue to raise the matter until such time as I am there when the ribbon is cut.” (2006)


“The Wealden Line Campaign has consistently put the case for the reopening for years. I congratulate those involved on their diligence and commitment in that respect.” (1998)


“The franchise process will fail if the Lewes-Uckfield line is not part of the successful bid. The Government must grasp this one-off opportunity to achieve a major improvement to the rail network in Sussex.” (2000)


“The Liberal Democrats will transform the railways with the biggest expansion since the Victorian age. This package will have huge benefits for communities across the country, including our own area, where the Lewes - Uckfield line is set to reopen if the Lib Dems are in a position of power after the election.” (2010)