Uckfield to Brighton/Lewes


bringing important railway connections together

Sussex Phase

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

In addition, the construction of Ashcombe tunnel beneath the South Downs would be built to deliver a fast, direct link into the City of Brighton & Hove. This would put Falmer – the home of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club (Amex stadium) and the University of Sussex – on a main line to London and make these important and expanding destinations more accessible from Sussex, Surrey, Kent, London and East Anglia.

The following is a synopsis based on Network Rail’s 2008 Study. A new station would be provided at Uckfield, located on the original site as indicated in the accompanying illustration. The former High Street level crossing would not be reinstated, but a new road built by East Sussex County Council would instead bridge the railway in the area marked.

Uckfield New Station

Two new 12-car platforms would be provided either side of the double-track route and there would be a footbridge connecting platforms whilst the existing modular station building would be dismantled and re-erected in its new position.

The former railway alignment between Uckfield station and the A22 bypass, now forming the southern edge of Bellbrook Industrial Estate, would be purchased. Trackbed protection policies have kept this clear of buildings and it is used mainly for storage bins or parking.

The A22 bypass would be raised to cross over the railway on a bridge. [East Sussex County Council pledged to build and fund this and associated works should the line ever be reopened].

The width of the rail corridor varies between 15 – 20 metres, the former measurement being the required boundary for new construction. Earthworks along the route will need assessment and strengthening where necessary, whilst the formation will have to be built to modern standards to accommodate double track and meet new railway requirements.

Similarly, all existing cast-iron and steel bridges on brick/stone abutments will need replacing with modern concrete structures, including culverts. Track would be installed to current Network Rail standards capable of a 100mph ruling line speed.

The double track route would be capable of supporting eight trains per hour each way.

Level crossings at Isfield, Anchor Lane and Barcombe Mills will not be reopened but substituted with bridges, though not necessarily at the same location. It is not proposed to reopen any intermediate stations.

The Uckfield line would join the Lewes-London line at Hamsey, but not using the original alignment of 1858-1868.

Brighton Main Line 2
BML2 assumes the route south of Uckfield would be built to exactly the same high specifications as set out above by Network Rail. Of crucial importance though is the additional 2½ miles of fast, direct main line into Brighton which can only be achieved with a new tunnel through the South Downs. At the same time it would be both practical and desirable to relocate the connection into Lewes and avoid Hamsey as much as possible (see diagram).

BML2 Connections to Coast

BML2 would pass underneath the London-Lewes line to enter the 1½ mile Ashcombe tunnel taking the railway almost entirely beneath the South Downs National Park. It would emerge on the southern side just west of the Kingston roundabout and cross over the A27 dual carriageway and almost immediately connect into the Coastway East line. On Brighton-bound trains the next station stop after Uckfield would be Falmer. This section would be resignalled to accommodate more intensive services being operated.

As BML2, the Uckfield line would carry additional direct trains between London and the Sussex Coast to both Brighton and Eastbourne, thus augmenting and relieving the adjacent Brighton Main Line.

For southbound passengers, Uckfield would operate in a similar manner to Haywards Heath. Those wanting Lewes (10 minute journey time) would board direct Eastbourne services; those requiring Brighton (20 minute journey time) would board the direct Brighton services calling at Falmer (13 minute journey time). With some services and should the need arise, it would be possible to join/split Brighton and Eastbourne portions at Uckfield.

For northbound passengers there is no need for BML2 Brighton to London services to serve Lewes. Those wanting Lewes may board any of the many trains already operating between Brighton and Lewes. However, Lewes will gain additional services to London from Eastbourne (or Seaford/Newhaven if preferred) via BML2.

Only BML2 can provide the necessary sufficient volume of trains and additional capacity required by Network Rail and the train operators between London and the Sussex Coast. When the railway line south of Uckfield was closed in 1969, it was not the loss of the physical connection between Lewes and Uckfield that was so damaging, but the loss of direct services between Brighton and London.

It is no longer feasible to reinstate the 1969 route through the centre of Lewes, nor is it necessary. However, subsequent reopening studies have focused on reopening a Hamsey connection which puts all trains facing towards Eastbourne, rather than Brighton, which destroys the business case. Reversing trains at Lewes results in movement conflicts even with a turnback siding, whilst it would be time-consuming and unattractive. But most of all, it would not be possible to operate the necessary volume of additional services to Brighton in this manner. Forcing people to change trains at Lewes would also remove any incentive to use the Uckfield line as an alternative to the BML.

Only BML2 is capable of providing the fastest and most convenient services to all destinations and pleasing everyone.