The controversial reopening of the Uckfield to Lewes rail line is being investigated by the government.
Secretary of State for Transport the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin is commissioning Network Rail to undertake a study into increasing rail capacity between London and the south coast.
Specifically, he is asking whether reopening the Uckfield–Lewes line, closed 40 years ago, ‘will meet the demand for the future growth in rail travel’.
Visiting Lewes, Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am alive to local interest in re-opening this line and wider concerns about rail capacity between London and the south coast and this is why I have commissioned this study.
“It will help us to understand exactly what the issues are and build upon previous work that has looked at these questions.”
He met Lewes MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker, who has always supported reconnecting Lewes, but who remains opposed to the Brighton Main Line 2 Project – reviving direct Brighton to London services.
Network Rail now has nowhere to go in increasing capacity because the Brighton Line is full and cannot be expanded.
Recently Lord Adonis told Lord Bassam of Brighton it was ‘stark staring obvious’ that Brighton needs its second main line, whilst the city’s MPs, councillors and Lord Bassam are all backing BML2.
Brian Hart, who instigated the Wealden Line Campaign 27 years ago and is BML2’s Project Manager, said yet another Lewes–Uckfield study would meet precisely the same fate as all the others over the past 40 years.
“Network Rail’s 2008 Study proved beyond doubt there was neither a business case, nor an answer to their capacity conundrum by opening a local line,” he said.
He said the root of the problem was the absence of an additional direct Brighton–London main line which could only be addressed with BML2’s new Ashcombe tunnel through the South Downs.
“Tunnel construction is easy and has been revolutionised as Crossrail is demonstrating - it’s akin to pushing an apple corer through cheese.”
A DfT spokesman said: “Recent moves to devolve decision making for local transport schemes will also give greater freedom to local councils and enterprise partnerships to determine priorities and allocate funding accordingly.”
However, Mr Hart said: “Whilst we are all heartened that Patrick McLoughlin is ‘alive’ to opening the line, this is not a local issue but a massive problem for London and the South East.
“It can’t be done on a shoestring.
“Without BML2 the region will ultimately reach rail gridlock as this is the only realistic means of providing the capacity so badly needed.”
This week the Wealden Line Campaign launched a new website which not only details its ‘long struggle, troughs and near-triumphs, but why we, our members and supporters, are passionate about the exciting Brighton Main Line 2 Project’.
Go to www.wealdenline.org.uk
For more information about the BML2 Project visit www.bml2.co.uk/the-news