Whatever else Brian Hart (letters, February 10) has achieved in over 30 years of fronting the Wealden Line Campaign, he certainly has polished a fine line in laudatory messages about his own abilities whilst decrying his critics.
Now he has chosen to demolish the standing of Norman Baker, who in his 30-year career from 1986 seems to have achieved rather more than Mr Hart.
By 1987 Norman was a Lewes District Councillor, by 1991 Leader of LDC. After failing to be elected as MP for Lewes in 1992 he succeeded in 1997. In 2010 he became a Government Minister. During all that time Norman consistently supported the aims of Wealden Line Campaign against – as Mr Hart states – the distinctly lukewarm approach by successive Conservative administrations at East Sussex County Council.
Mr Hart feels that Norman has a personal dislike of the BML2 scheme. Maybe it was Norman’s judgement that BML2 is not achievable; that is certainly what I have always felt. Over a course of correspondence in the Sussex Express prior to the 2015 Election I tried to obtain from Mr Hart detailed plans of what BML2 will actually involve to residents along the line, not least in South Croydon (where I grew up) with the impact of his Croydon Gateway station, key to the whole BML2 concept. I pointed out that the line North of Croydon was never planned as a high-speed link and much of it is presently used by Tramlink. The recent fatal crash there shows how dangerous a high-speed derailment can be to passengers.
I also tried to get firm cost estimates from Mr Hart, the best he could provide was “£350 million for the Sussex end of BML2”. That would include the Ashcombe Tunnel to by-pass Lewes and the costs of upgrading the present line to Falmer, and North of Uckfield to run high-speed trains on overhead power lines. We are now given a total BML2 cost of £6 billion including a 13-mile tunnel under the Thames and the work to replace Tramlink, build the Gateway station and connect Gatwick and Stansted Airports, all of which do not help Sussex commuters to Central London in the slightest.
In December’s Sussex Express Mr Hart stated the BML2 concept could be “realised in eight years”. In 1969 another railway link was closed by BR, again after bitter protests, at the same time as the Uckfield-Lewes line. It ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh and acted as a third main line to Scotland.
Eventually after many studies and with the wholehearted support of the Scottish Parliament, a small part of the line, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, was re-opened by the Queen in 2015. The line is not double-track and is not electrified; it cost nearly £300 million. Rebuilding it was a separate exercise for the most part, without disruption to existing services in Scotland.
Contrast that with the disruption building BML2 would cause to present-day services from Brighton, all the way to London on existing tracks, and Eastwards to Tunbridge Wells. I would suggest that Mr Hart ask the Royal Family whether any appointments are bookable for Prince George to open BML2.
Cavell Avenue, Peacehaven