Home

  BML2Logo

bringing important railway connections together

BML2 Project Group

The following Members of the BML2 Project Team can also be contacted by email, using the relevant form.

BML2 Project Manager

BML2 Webmaster

Is BML2 just a fancy name for reopening the Uckfield to Lewes link?
No, it is a much better project which will achieve the goal of reopening this link. Before this section of line was closed, the route was worked with direct through services running between Brighton and London, as well as between Brighton and Tonbridge via Tunbridge Wells. The link was NOT closed as a result of the Beeching Report and British Railways had no intention of relinquishing this important secondary route between London and the Sussex Coast.

It was closed as a result of East Sussex County Council’s ‘Lewes Inner Relief Road Scheme’ the first stage of which required the closure and removal of the Uckfield line through Lewes town centre in 1969. Every reopening scheme since that time has only ever envisaged using a version of the early Victorian alignment (1858-1868) which ran via Hamsey between 1858 and 1868 (when the ‘improved’ direct line to Brighton through Lewes was opened 1868-1969). However, the big drawback with this old Victorian spur is that it would bring trains into Lewes ‘the wrong way’ – that is they would face towards Eastbourne rather than Brighton.

So why can’t we just reverse the trains at Lewes?
They can during emergencies, as occasionally happens when the BML is blocked between Wivelsfield and Brighton. However, to have timetabled trains constantly reversing would cause perpetual conflicts between train movements because Lewes isn’t a terminus. It would also be time-wasting and unattractive to rail users. Consultants Mott MacDonald attempted to devise a turnback siding in 1997, but it simply wasn’t practical. Lewes is also hindered by very severe speed restrictions, so London – Brighton journeys via Lewes would be frustratingly slow.

Couldn’t people just change trains at Lewes?
In theory yes, but that is a very unattractive option as people want direct journeys whenever possible. This is why all the previous studies into reopening have foundered, because the direct route to Brighton was lost. We have to accept that the City of Brighton and Hove is the principal driver of demand and growth.

Is it true BML2 would bypass Lewes?
Most certainly not – despite what some keep trying to suggest. The Wealden Line Campaign would never abandon Lewes, Eastbourne, Newhaven and Seaford in favour of Brighton. Following the disastrous conclusions of the 2008 Lewes-Uckfield Reinstatement Study by East Sussex County Council and Network Rail, this great project faced oblivion. Going to Lewes is equally justisfied, but we have to restore those all-important direct services between the Uckfield line and Brighton. Lewes would be overwhelmed if all rail traffic was sent through here.

Would the old Hamsey spur be relaid?
No. This connection was considered by Network Rail in 2008 but rejected in favour of a new alignment avoiding nearby dwellings and running slightly further west. BML2 proposes a slightly different connection into Lewes and a bit further away from Hamsey although it is of the same curvature as the Network Rail plan, so it would support modern day operation.

Is there any guarantee that Lewes wouldn’t be bypassed?
No one, including Network Rail (as they have told us) would build BML2 through to Brighton without an equal connection into Lewes. It’s important that Eastbourne and Seaford services can access the Uckfield line.

So why is BML2 so important?
It’s all about volume and additional capacity. It’s simply impossible to provide the necessary vast increase in the volume of trains and passengers between the Sussex Coast and London without BML2. Network Rail calculated that a reopened, double-track line south of Uckfield could support eight trains per hour each way (about one every 7-8 minutes in both directions). If you share these between Brighton and Lewes/Eastbourne etc, you can see how the volume is more than they actually require.

Doesn’t BML2 make it all too costly?
Absolutely not. For decades we have accepted the incremental approach – start small and build up gradually – beginning with the cheapest option, a basic single-line with diesel trains to avoid electrification costs. But this has failed every time without exception – as witnessed by the many studies and resulting weak business cases. BML2 is business-based and focuses on demand and solving the rail industry’s problems on the adjacent BML and elsewhere. It has been accepted that the 2008 Network Rail study showed beyond doubt that there was no economic case for a low-cost local railway. Only a main line project can provide the capacity and volume which a commuter-based economy needs. Its business case would be infinitely stronger. Unlike those who still argue for a ‘cheap’ scheme, we believe railways are extremely important and worth high capital investment.

How would the train service work?
People at Uckfield, Crowborough, Oxted, and all stations north thereof, as well as Tunbridge Wells, would have direct services to Falmer and Brighton. People wanting Lewes would board the direct services going to Eastbourne, or possibly Seaford. Heading north, Brighton people who want Lewes will board any of the many trains which currently go there, but if they want Uckfield line destinations and beyond then why would they want to go into Lewes? The new Ashcombe tunnel under the South Downs west of Lewes allows this to happen.

Isn’t a tunnel difficult and expensive to construct?
Not at all. New tunnelling methods have revolutionized construction – look at the huge machines building 42km / 26 miles of Crossrail tunnels under London. The 1½ mile (2.4km) Ashcombe tunnel would go through chalk – ideal tunnelling material (in geological terms this comprises the Seaford beds) It has been estimated that the entire tunnel and associated connections could be done for less than the cost of 2 miles of East Sussex County Council’s Hastings–Bexhill link road (£120m).

Wouldn’t it be controversial?
There’s no sound reason why. The tunnel would run only under downland and farmland. Both the railway and the trains it will carry would be entirely concealed beneath the undulating South Downs, whilst BML2 would only be visible at the northern end of the National Park for a very short distance.

At the tunnel’s southern portal it crosses almost immediately over the busy A27 dual carriageway and trains would not be heard above the constant roar of road traffic. Environmentally the railway is infinitely preferable as it would not carve through Sussex downland creating a vast cutting – as happened with the nearby A27 Lewes bypass.

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 BML2 Project can be summarised in three phases:-

Sussex phase:
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.


Kent phase:
Re-instatement of the former main line into Tunbridge Wells (West) from both the north (Ashurst) and south (Eridge) directions, thus linking the borough and western Kent fully into the core BML2 route.

Develop Tunbridge Wells (West) as a major commuter station and thereby reduce pressure on the Tonbridge Main Line into London. This route is similarly one of the most congested rail lines in the country, over which Network Rail says it is not possible to operate any more services into London at peak times.

Give Tunbridge Wells, which continues to be a fast-growing centre of commuting, direct train services to Canary Wharf but without today’s need to travel into central London and out again. 

Open up Tunbridge Wells for business, tourism and trade from Brighton and across a wide area of Sussex and Surrey.

London phase:
This is the most ambitious of the three phases and will easily be the most expensive – but it has the greatest potential and reward for all involved.

International investors are backing BML2 and in 2017 upgraded the project through London. In place of the original proposal to attempt reopening the partially-redundant rail corridor from Selsdon (south Croydon) to Lewisham via Elmers End, funding is now available to build a completely tunnelled fast line from Croydon into London. This has been termed by the London & Southern Counties Railway Consortium (LSCR) as ‘The London link’

Their proposal is a new subterranean line commencing south of Croydon (connecting all lines from the Sussex Coast); a new station in central Croydon (for interchange with East Croydon) then running fast to Lewisham to connect with the forthcoming extension of the Bakerloo Underground line. Interchange with North Kent services would also be possible.

Canary Wharf would be the next stop, for Crossrail and Jubilee line services and Docklands area.

Stratford comes next where interchange with Crossrail, Stratford International HS1, London Underground and national rail services would be possible. Further enhancements are being planned by LSCR and will be revealed at a later date.

BML2 Map 2018 360

CLICK HERE to see a larger version of the BML2 Route Map

BML2 does not merely provide faster journeys between Brighton and the expanding areas in London – commuters from many towns across the South East will directly benefit from increased destinations. Towns such as Eastbourne, Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Seaford, Horsham, Chichester and many more, will be more accessible by train and have greater access to other places. Relieving the pressure of overcrowding will also benefit Hassocks, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Crawley and Croydon, etc. Nearby towns will also benefit from increased business, particularly those involved in tourism.

Gatwick is the country's second busiest airport which needs better rail links and services into London. BML2 would deliver a superior connection to Docklands and Canary Wharf. It would also be possible to introduce direct rail services to Stansted airport from the south, enabling both airports to work together with superior services through the expanding Docklands area. Other services to central London termini would continue as now.

With vastly-improved cross-London connections, commuters and tourists will find it easier to explore a greater part of the country – not just Sussex and Kent, but also Surrey, East Anglia and beyond.

BML2 is essential for London and the South East's future prosperity. Traffic could flow in many directions at the Croydon/London end, providing much needed extra capacity and flexibility.

The BML2 Route Plan below, showing how it interlinks with both the Brighton Main Line and Tonbridge Main Line via a reinstated Tunbridge Wells West station. The BML2 plan is the only current project that will provide increased capacity and unlock Network Rail's stated "Major Barriers to Growth in the South East", for which Network Rail currently have no answer, other than to consider pricing people off train travel during the weekday peak period."

 

BML2 Map 2018  

The flexibility that BML2 provides at the Southern end could provide passengers with multiple choice direct destinations from Eastbourne, Seaford and Brighton. On some destinations north of London, it could also avoid having to change trains in the Central London area, thereby freeing up capacity on the London Underground lines.

As new third rail electrification is now ruled out, BML2 (from Brighton through Uckfield) would be wired for 25kv AC Overhead Line (OHL). Dual-voltage trains would be necessary to access BML2 from Eastbourne, Lewes or Seaford until converted from 750v third-rail.