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bringing important railway connections together

Why would Tunbridge Wells commuters use BML2?
Network Rail has long said that the Tonbridge Main Line (TML) is a ‘major barrier to growth’ whilst the 2017 Kent Route Study concludes no more services can be operated into London during peak times. The Tonbridge – Sevenoaks – Orpington section is only double track, but at peak times has to carry 12 – 15 trains per hour. The route cannot be quadrupled but a solution is necessary.

Current proposals are to introduce higher-density rolling stock which means more standing room in the aisles and vestibules. These new trains are unpopular because people resent being forced to stand for long distances and travel to work in cramped and uncomfortable conditions every day. We believe commuters and all rail users should be treated better than this. That is why we have always fought for a proper long term solution for increasing rail travel into London.

Tunbridge Wells is the principal generator of commuter traffic which is why its former main line from Tunbridge Wells West (TWW) to London via Oxted needs to be reopened. As an integral part of BML2, Tunbridge Wells would gain direct services to Canary Wharf which is where many of its commuters work. This would also avoid worsening congestion at London Bridge.

What about Sainsbury’s?
The store currently occupies part of the trackbed, but the company gave a written undertaking to remove any buildings (and at their expense) should the line ever reopen. However, we’ve always believed there exists a wonderful opportunity for Sainsbury’s to improve and even enlarge their retail operations and be partners in this great development.

At the moment the site’s value is mostly wasted on open-air car parking, but multi-storey parking, along with an enlarged store, as well as mooted new housing development would take full advantage of the new main line with all the business and benefits that would generate.

What about the Spa Valley railway?
These main line rail connections to Brighton (via Lewes) and London (via Oxted) should never have been closed. It was a dreadful decision for which we continue to pay dearly. These routes are badly needed to support intensive services on the national operating network. We’re not against preserved railways or people having fun at weekends, but the route currently performs no transport function and is far too important to remain out of use.

Do the local authorities support reopening?
Both Wealden District and Tunbridge Wells Borough councils continue to protect the trackbed for future reinstatement with services to Brighton via Eridge. However, there is no active promotion for reopening, whilst neither council appears to comprehend the value of the Ashurst link so trains can run direct to London from Tunbridge Wells West.

What is Network Rail’s position?
Although NR maintains a lukewarm interest and says protecting the routes should continue, it currently has no plans for reinstatement. It has also said it is not against reopening the Tunbridge Wells line.

Isn’t the tunnel at Tunbridge Wells a problem?
Not at all. Grove tunnel would doubtless be opened out and rebuilt for double track anyway, whilst the formation connecting the West and Central stations was engineered throughout to take double track.

Would the large station building at TWW be taken back?
It is certainly a magnificent structure and far more impressive than the cramped and somewhat dingy ‘Central’ station which struggles to serve the Royal Borough. The regeneration of the Pantiles area, close to the West station, is thankfully beginning to happen as Tunbridge Wells seeks to grow and prosper.

From a railway operational aspect the important asset is the space TWW offers. Its generously-long 12-car platforms could be rebuilt and there is space for at least three platform faces – giving the railways all the capacity and flexibility we need for future network expansion. Developed alongside a new Sainsburys, it would be a new transport hub for Tunbridge Wells and benefit everyone. Sadly here in England we appear to have lost the ability to do joined-up thinking.

Couldn’t we just reopen the old spur between the Tonbridge – Redhill and East Grinstead lines?
Although there is spare capacity on the Redhill route, that would be a longer, roundabout journey to London. However, the capacity constraints at Tonbridge would remain, but even worse we couldn’t solve the insuperable blockade which is Tunbridge Wells (Central).

Tunbridge Wells (Central) is the big problem, not just its short platforms necessitating ‘Selective Door Opening’, but conflicting train movements using its reversible lines, as well as the turnback itself which even Network Rail identifies as a ‘constraint to growth’. It all comes down to the undeniable fact that we need to operate more trains into London – that’s the important thing – and only BML2 can do that.

Aside from commuters, what other benefits might there be?
We would gain regional services to Lewes, Brighton, other Sussex Coast towns and of course the University of Sussex at Falmer and the AMEX stadium at Falmer. All would become within easy reach by train. Such traffic would also flow into Tunbridge Wells, not only from Sussex but also Surrey and Kent.

 

Since its inception in 2010, the BML2 Project has evolved and even now is being further developed and enhanced.

Its principal aim is to substantially improve and enlarge the South East’s rail network by introducing new main lines whereby more services into London may operate. These new services would also usefully connect counties on both sides of the Thames by passing through the rapidly expanding eastern side of the capital.

So, despite what its name suggests, it is also a great deal more than just relieving pressure on the country's busiest and most congested rail route – the London-Brighton Line. Additionally, BML2 would not only be of great benefit to hard-pressed commuters, but would also restore valuable strategic rail links across Sussex, Surrey and Kent.


The Sussex Phase of the BML2 Project can be summarised thus:-

Restoration of Sussex’s second-most important main line. This requires reopening the seven-mile ‘missing link’ between Uckfield and Lewes to provide a new direct route from Eastbourne, Seaford & Newhaven to London via Uckfield.

The construction of Ashcombe tunnel beneath the South Downs to deliver a fast, direct link into the City of Brighton & Hove, thus making it possible to operate many more trains between London and the Sussex Coast.

Put Falmer – the home of Brighton & Hove Albion (Amex stadium) and the University of Sussex – on a main line to London. This would make these important and expanding destinations more accessible from Sussex, Surrey, Kent, London and East Anglia.

Considerably reduce pressure on the Brighton Main Line to provide better conditions for travellers rather than forcing people to stand in crowded aisles for long parts of the journey.

 

BML2 is in the unique position of being capable of solving many of the serious problems facing the most over-crowded routes between London, Sussex, Surrey and Kent. It also offers other opportunities to enhance the network further and strengthen the capital’s position in Europe. The focus of growth in London is gravitating eastwards, whilst the city and its environs seem set to continue their key role in the financial, commercial and tourist sector.

What has now become the BML2 Project, was the brainwave of Brian Hart who has extensive knowledge and enormous enthusiasm of the national railways in the South East corner of the UK. He was also instrumental in starting the Wealden Line Campaign many years ago, in an endeavour to get the railway line rebuilt from Lewes to Uckfield. His determination to reconnect the vast swathe of people living in the Wealden/Mid Sussex/Kent areas directly by rail to the South Coast remains undiminished to this day.

With the new Amex football stadium at Falmer for Brighton & Hove Albion, vast numbers of football supporters will need to travel to the East of Brighton and the BML2, when built, would provide ideal public transport for those coming from the Oxted/Tunbridge Wells/Crowborough and Uckfield areas. It would also make life easier for Undergraduates to get to the two Universities from these areas, and avoid possible late arrival, caused by being compelled to use buses that can often get delayed by heavy road traffic.