Campaign lead Brian Hart, who edits Missing Link newsletter on behalf of the Wealden Line Campaign, told the Express: “The Government has dismissed our application for fundraising as part of the so-called - Restoring Your Railway’ (RYR) programme. In a communication to Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, the DfT letter signed by Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris indicated the proposal did not ‘set out the case sufficiently for it to be recommended for further funding.’ One of the reasons given was that passenger numbers on the Brighton main line are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We are not deterred by the latest dismissal. The RYR programme appears to be a crude vote-buying exercise. I am sorry for Maria who put a lot of effort into this and has been hung out to dry.
“I can’t resist letting off steam about the ungrateful so-and-so’s in the North who believe we get all we want in the ‘undeserving South’ where housing and living costs are far higher here while wages are the same. The county’s GDP is comparable with Cumbria. We are the most congested part of the UK and deserve ‘greener transport.’ Next month the nine-day closure of the Brighton main line will cause howls of anguish.”
Brian emphasised: “The line closure in 1969 remains a running sore and it’s a pity we’ve never had politicians with the gumption to put things right once and for all.”
The BLM2 project aims to extend the Uckfield-London Bridge track to run from Brighton to Stansted. Brian and his team have walked the route into and through London and explained the project’s feasibility to potential funders, all prepared to provide substantial capital sums.
The Government letter went on: “There are no further Ideas Funds rounds planned. However it is my aim that feedback will help you reconsider your proposal so you are ready to take future opportunities.’
Brian said: “If rail numbers are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels when why does the Government trumpet spending £96bn - £96,000,000 - on railways elsewhere in the UK? Surely not to buy votes in ‘red wall’ constituences?”
Ms Caulfield, MP for Lewes said she believes having a second rail line to connect strategic towns of Lewes and Uckfield and introducing a direct mainline for Seaford and Newhaven are still important reasons to support the bid for BLM2 and will continue to campaign.
She said: “It is disappointing that the Restoring Your Railways bid was not successful. Passenger numbers were a key reason behind the decision as we still only see 40% of passengers now travelling to and from London on our current main line, compared with before the pandemic.
“Given that working from home is set to continue in the long term the congestion figures in our bid no longer reflect the reality of the congestion on the current Brighton Main Line. I am still passionate and committed to the reopening of the line as congestion was not the only reason for the bid.”