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bringing important railway connections together

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 London Phase of the BML2 Project can be summarised thus:-

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.

 

Is BML2 going to avoid East Croydon?
East Croydon has been described as a ‘bottleneck’ and a ‘major barrier to growth’ by Network Rail. That is why the project originally proposed routing some services to London via a reopened railway between Selsdon and Elmers End.

Instead, the international investors backing BML2 are prepared to invest millions in building a far better railway for London and the South East. This will be a completely new tunnelled line between Croydon and Stratford for direct fast services.

The tunnel is proposed to commence south of Croydon with a new subsurface station serving East Croydon. From here the next stop will be Lewisham. Here, BML2 will be able to link up with North Kent services, the forthcoming extension of the Bakerloo tube, as well as links to the Tonbridge main line. The next stop will be Canary Wharf for Crossrail services east and west, as well as the Jubilee line. After this comes Stratford, for Crossrail services and access to HS1. Further enhancements and proposals are currently being developed.

Will there still be trains into central London?
Of course, we do not propose taking any services away, but increasing the number of trains into London through making new travel opportunities available.

Why Canary Wharf?
Once Thameslink has been completed there will be no more train paths available into London Bridge. Network Rail will attempt operating 24 trains per hour through Blackfriars and Farringdon, that’s one every 150 seconds, but this depends on precision timing with no delays having a knock-on effect. Serious doubts as to whether this can be achieved, even with new digital signalling systems, have been expressed.

Some truly immense benefits come with a new railway across the eastern Thames connecting Croydon and Lewisham with Canary Wharf and Stratford. Terminating services in London take up space and capacity so it’s better to go through the capital – which was the basis for developing Thameslink over thirty years ago.

Canary Wharf is already a key destination for commuters and with Crossrail will become even more significant. Many thousands of people could be spared the wasted time, frustration, cost and so on of needlessly travelling right into London and back out again to Canary Wharf. The cost/benefit ratio would be impressive.

What is ‘Stanwick’?
A key benefit of BML2’s London Phase is physically joining London’s Stansted and Gatwick airports with one continuous railway which could operate a dedicated shuttle service.

This could operate as Gatwick – Canary Wharf – Stratford – Stansted. There would still be airport services into central London as now, but BML2’s additional services would boost the capital’s international connections in a huge way.

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 Kent Phase of the BML2 Project can be summarised thus:-

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.

The BML2 Project has published a 14pp report entitled "What BML2 will do for Kent and Tunbridge Wells" and this can be downloaded from the BML2 Publications area on this website

 

 

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.