THE ‘BRIGHTON Main Line 2’ rail project is being backed by a top Labour political figure.
Its Lords Chief Whip, Lord Bassam of Brighton, says BML2 “is a highly commendable scheme” and he is urging the Government and rail industry to support it.
A long-term champion of re-opening the Lewes-Uckfield line, the Labour peer is specifically enthusiastic about the fast link under the South Downs into the City as this would introduce direct trains between Brighton, Uckfield, Tunbridge Wells and the greater South East.
In May’s edition of ‘RAIL’ magazine, published shortly, Lord Bassam criticises proposals to substantially raise peak-hour fares to reduce overcrowding, rather than expand the “grossly congested” Sussex rail network.
He says Brighton and Hove’s economic success largely relies on the Brighton line, but worsening overcrowding and unreliability threatens the City’s prospects, which is why BML2 is so important. Falmer would gain direct trains with London, considerably improving links across the South East to Sussex University and Albion’s new stadium.
After visiting Lewes in 2008, Theresa Villiers MP (now Rail Minister) said re-opening the Lewes-Uckfield line was “an issue of high importance”, whilst Brighton, Lewes and Wealden MPs have variously pressed for its reinstatement. Now, Lord Bassam has told the Wealden Line Campaign “Given that both Villiers and Baker have form on this issue they could use their clout to make it happen.”
He says because the coalition parties run most of the local authorities in the area then they could easily make it happen – if they honestly believed in it – “it is a question of political will”.
With multi-billion national projects such as Crossrail and High Speed Two demanding huge funding and resources, Lord Bassam is anxious that Sussex rail travellers don’t lose out.
“We must ensure these do not come at the detriment of those smaller, but equally imperative projects which have broad benefits like BML2.”
He believes “BML2 is a cost-effective proposal and a relatively easy scheme to get started, particularly at the southern end.
Such investment would soon pay for itself because railways in this part of the region will always be popular.”
BML2 Project Manager Brian Hart commented: “Such genuine and key political support for BML2 from Lord Bassam is both significant and extremely gratifying.
It now remains to be seen whether the Liberal Democrats are Government partners or props, because it is high time the dominant party in this coalition gave Lewes’s MP the leg-up he truly deserves with one of his most passionate lifetime political ambitions.”