Cost of what’s proposed for BML2 would be staggering

I am extremely grateful for Brian Hart’s further reply to my letter on the above.

I note also he seems to have chosen the “Blue Route” elsewhere in the paper to advance his BML2 Project.

If Mr Hart had not pointed me to a detailed examination of the website, I would have missed the revealing comment on the “Route Plan” page that it would be necessary to power all trains on BML2 throughout by 25kv overhead, rather than by third rail. Since he specifically states this includes the whole route this must imply that trains from Brighton through all the present tunnels and bridge structures throughout towards London would require modification, London Road viaduct included. It also means that Steve George’s concerns over visual intrusion would be massively increased.

I am however a little baffled by Mr George’s reference to a “cutting” between Lewes and Hamsey. When the Victorians planned the cut-off line into Lewes from Wivelsfield and later the original alignment from Uckfield, they evidently appreciated the tendency of the Ouse and Uck to flood at this point and raised both lines well above the flood-plain. The plan on the BML2 webpage entitled “Why Only BML2 Can Benefit Lewes” clearly shows that BML2 rather than use the old Hamsey alignment embankment on the slip line to Lewes, would drop to the valley floor to pass UNDERNEATH the existing line and provide a slip line to the South of that. This would in my view make the line vulnerable to flooding. A cutting would only make matters worse.

Then there is the question of the tunnel which from the entry point at Hamsey, would have to be on a continuous gradient to rejoin the line ascending the bank between Lewes and Falmer. To accommodate 25kv AC it would have to be appreciably larger in diameter too. A photograph of an existing bridge elsewhere on the BML2 website hardly does justice to the structure which would then be needed to cross the A27. This would dominate the landscape at this point even without the catenary required.

Then as Mr Hart refers proudly to the “scissor crossing” at Croydon Gateway, perhaps he could include an image of his proposed station on the website, rather than a 50-year old photograph of Selsdon station which has long since disappeared under a housing development. And to claim as usable without refurbishment a bridge over Croham Road, Croydon, which has stood unused for over 30 years, and was only left in situ with its high approach embankments as a possible southward extension of the “Tramlink” system. Tramlink utilises lightweight two-car units at limited speeds rather than main-line units built for 90 mph. The original costed study in 2008 of the Uckfield-Lewes replacement made it clear that virtually every bridge or other structure would need replacement. The BML2 website suggests blithely that the Croham Road bridge and its approach earthworks could take 90 mph trains as they are now.

Mr Hart must be aware that flt rail crossings have been eliminated from the rail network for years, and to separate the two scissor links at Croydon Gateway within the confines of the site would result in earthworks which would destroy and disfigure the landscape, especially as there would have to be festoons of catenary, including an installation of overhead power line all the way back down the Brighton line to Gatwick, again costing a huge sum. How else could the “Stanwick” part of his project be effective? Has he seriously costed his contention that the whole of BML2 must be powered by 25kv rather than by 750v d.c. south of the river, as is the case with Thameslink and the West London line?

In 2008 the Railtrack study of Uckfield-Lewes replacement without electrification came up with a cost of over £140m for restitution of the line. Mr Hart at the time disputed that, but even if it was over-costed for political reasons, it won’t be much less now. On the other hand the BML2 website proclaims the total cost for installing BML2 in Sussex alone to be just over £300m, in other words just double what was estimated for a simple line between Uckfield and Lewes via Hamsey scheme. With all the costs of installing overhead power, new rolling stock and of course the costs elsewhere – the power supply system won’t change at the Surrey/Sussex border – perhaps Mr Hart could tell us all what the total cost of BML2 will be. In my view it might reach billions with the “Stanwick “ extension. And as he says in his letter that is vital to the whole of his vision.

Bob Brown