Rail has ‘exceptional value for money’

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Chancellor George Osborne’s Sussex Express announcement that Government will scrutinize BML2’s viability is extremely encouraging.

But I’m not solely pursuing a “Blue Route” as Bob Brown suggests – it’s red, green, purple, although sadly, it seems, not yellow.

Without boring Sussex Express readers with technicalities, a decision on third rail or overhead electrification is Network Rail’s – which incidentally proposes converting the entire south to overhead.

BML2’s engineering proposals are sound and have been considered in detail at numerous rail industry invitations in Croydon and London. Although significantly more expensive than just reopening Uckfield to Lewes, BML2 delivers a far higher magnitude of returns to investors, hence creating more interest in four years than ‘Uckfield-Lewes’ ever achieved in 40.

Croydon is a colossal problem and needs a rail bypass; Network Rail itself advocating a new 15-mile tunnel from Purley into London. BML2 would cost less, while delivering far more opportunities and benefits for Croydon, London and the South East – as many increasingly appreciate.

John Jefkins MBE suggests I talk to Lib Dem MPs, claiming they’ll have more influence as Government Ministers after May’s election. Despite trying on numerous occasions explaining BML2 to Norman Baker, he remains intractable as ever. Clearly, he experiences difficulty understanding that Uckfield would operate like Haywards Heath, where some trains go direct to Brighton and some trains go direct to Eastbourne via Lewes. Besides, what hope is there when he won’t even back his own town council which voted to support BML2?

Finally, despite Brian Beck having said some years ago he’d say no more about this subject, it seems the ‘Sage of Sussex Express Letters’ can’t resist temptation. In fact, I’ve pursued this matter for 40 years and in 1987 succeeded in causing British Rail to offer 25% towards their £6m reopening estimate. Despite today’s higher specification costs, railways still offer exceptional value for money when compared with road building.

The South Downs present no problems for tunnelling machines, as demonstrated by London’s Crossrail and HS1. In 2007 Network Rail planned a second tunnel at Clayton, along with six others, if it converted the Brighton Line for double deck trains.

BML2’s bridge across the A27 would be identical in length to the one nearby, while the amount of traffic passing beneath is plainly irrelevant. In Uckfield, ESCC committed itself to funding the A22 bypass bridge over the reopened

railway (dated 12 December 1978).

Precise estimates, detailed designs, timescales, etc, are for well-paid quantity surveyors, architects and civil engineers. My job is to convey the overall concept and benefits of BML2 which will boost the economy of Sussex, while safeguarding its landscapes. I think we all agree our railways are indispensable and we’d be poorer without them.

Brian Hart

Campaign Director Wealden Line Campaign