A screening opinion for a westward extension to Ardingly has now been lodged with Mid Sussex District Council.
This would involve reinstating and reopening the railway along the former Horsted Keynes to Haywards Heath route as far as Ardingly.
At Ardingly, the plans would involve diverting the line to the north around the existing Hansons aggregate depot, which is connected to the national rail network via a spur from Haywards Heath.
According to a report submitted with the plans: “Heritage railways such as the Bluebell Railway offer opportunities to understand, experience and celebrate important parts of our history.
"The reinstatement of the line from Horsted Keynes to Ardingly would contribute positively to the provision of these opportunities, which benefit wellbeing and the wider community through an appreciation of the historical development of the area.”
It described how the Bluebell Railway and Hanson have been liaising over the proposal for a number of years to minimise the impact of the reinstatement on Hanson’s operations and use of the site.
The only feasible option is to create a new box tunnel under College Road, to the north of the existing bridge, and run the heritage railway to the north of the aggregates depot.
This tunnel and section of track north of the existing at the Ardingly depot would enable the potential for future heritage services to run to Haywards Heath, whilst minimising the land take from the safeguarded railhead.