Wealden Line campaign is misunderstood

As I’m described the “leading light” of the Wealden Line Campaign in Bob Brown’s letter (‘There are better and cheaper ways’ – Sussex Express 2 Jan) may I respond?

Unfortunately, he badly misunderstands the campaign’s Brighton Main Line 2 project. In 1969, the direct rail link between London and Brighton via Uckfield passing through Lewes town centre was destroyed and cannot be rebuilt. Every attempt by British Rail, Railtrack and more recently Network Rail to reopen an inferior alternative via Hamsey has consistently failed, because all trains would face towards Eastbourne.

BML2 is not a ‘high-speed’ scheme, but would reconnect a 90mph Uckfield line directly to Brighton using a new tunnel under downland west of Lewes. This would join up near Kingston, serving Sussex University and Falmer stadium along the way. Such a substantial increase in passenger volume and services this provides between the Sussex coast and London makes a very robust business case. This overwhelmingly justifies reopening – allowing Lewes, Seaford and Eastbourne to similarly benefit by direct connection into BML2.

East Croydon requires a rail ‘bypass’ (as happened at Red-hill in 1899) and BML2 makes use of the currently closed/under-used rail corridor between south Croydon and Lewisham. Croydon’s Tramlink would not be “destroyed” – as Bob Brown claims – but substantially enhanced and improved.

The capital’s eastwards shift in development, docklands residential and Canary Wharf commercial centre demands new east London links. The Arup Corporation, building Crossrail and Thameslink, has already declared the central core through Blackfriars and Farringdon will quickly be overwhelmed.

BML2’s London Phase links Kent, Sussex and Surrey to East Anglia, Cambridge, Stansted, etc, without forcing everyone into central London.

A chord at Arundel wouldn’t benefit Lewes, or even Brighton, as Network Rail has said – it would add an additonal hour on journey time, as well as an extra 30 tedious miles via Horsham.

The Bluebell Railway (single-line, unelectrified, mechanical signalling) offers no solution because trains from East Grinstead would run to Haywards Heath – into the most congested and restrictive section of the entire Brighton Line.

Maria Caulfield joins rational and eminent supporters such as Brighton MP Simon Kirby, Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, Brighton City Conservative Leader Cllr Geoffrey Theobald, Labour Peers Lord Bassam and Lord Adonis, who have all strongly backed BML2 because they appreciate its immense and far-reaching benefits for all of Sussex.

Brian Hart

Campaign Director, Wealden Line Campaign, Uckfield