‘High speed rail’ poster outdated

I’m sorry to disappoint Bob Brown but the ‘High Speed Rail Link’ poster for which he demands an explanation (letters, February 6) is 20 years old and one of many designed to encourage the rail industry and the Government to re-evaluate the Uckfield Line’s potential as a revived Sussex main line.

Back then, we tried desperately hard promoting the Seaford/Newhaven-Lewes-London route as ‘A New London – Coastal Clearway’ even though the ‘high speed’ trains would be British Rail’s ‘Networkers’ (top speed 90mph). To make our point, another poster (pictured right) compared this ‘high speed railway’ with the current ‘NO SPEED RAILWAY’ south of Uckfield!

Many Sussex Express readers might remember Connex proposing a new 100mph Eastbourne – London main line via Uckfield in 2001, but it lost out in preference to current train operator GoVia.

Network Rail’s 2009 Lewes-Uckfield study reckoned that Turbostars (the diesel units operating the Uckfield and Hastings-Ashford services) could attain 86mph if running non-stop on the reopened link. Alternatively, they calculated that Voyagers (operated by Virgin) could reach 100mph, although 30mph negotiating Hamsey Junction. Thus, Uckfield to Lewes would take 10 minutes.

High speed in Sussex means 90mph, if you’re lucky, because there are always slower or stopping trains up ahead. Everybody wants faster trains and it’s what MPs constantly champion.

So from Uckfield, BML2 services would reach Lewes in 10 minutes, Falmer in 13 and Brighton in 20 minutes, hardly ‘high speed’ in today’s sense, but certainly easier, quicker and more attractive than the alternatives.

In answer to Sue Priest, whether we like it or not, the case for reopening only Lewes-Uckfield is too weak. But it will happen as part of BML2 because direct access to Canary Wharf and particularly Crossrail, avoiding nightmarish central London congestion, will benefit millions of commuters. This will significantly cut journey times and deliver vast quantifiable economic savings.

Brian Beck is wrong, as usual, and might contemplate Thameslink’s massive new rail bridge across London’s Southwark market. By comparison, an A27 bridge at Kingston is a picnic. Such comment reminds us of the balderdash, attributed to that early-Victorian professor, Dionysius Lardner, who claimed that passengers would die of asphyxia as all the air would be sucked out of their lungs at railway speeds. George Stephenson proved him wrong.

Brian Hart

campaign director Wealden Line Campaign