Building a second Brighton Main Line (BML2), which would run through Uckfield, has attracted the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who is effectively deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Osborne assured Lewes Constituency MP, Maria Caulfield, that the government was fully committed to a full study of BML2.
Earlier in the year the Chancellor announced funding for a feasibility study for the re-opening of the Uckfield-Lewes line.
In a letter to Ms Caulfield, Mr Osborne wrote: “I want to go further and take the opportunity to look at rail links in Sussex more generally, including the viability of BML2.”
Upgrades to existing routes
The summer Budget extended the scope of the Uckfield-Lewes study to “look at improving rail links between London and south coast, including upgrades to existing routes, consideration of the Brighton Main Line corridor, and re-examination of the Department of Transport’s feasibility study on BML2”.
Mr Osborne said he was happy for the MP to share the letter with the BML2 campaign, whose project manager, Brian Hart, lives in Uckfield, “who I hope find this response positive”.
Mr Hart told UckfieldNews.com the project would transform the Uckfield branch back into the main line it used to be, with double-tracking and electrification.
20 minutes to Brighton by train
With BML2, Brighton would be 20 minutes by train, Falmer just 13 minutes and Lewes ten minutes. “We’d also be properly connected by rail to Tunbridge Wells, whilst BML2’s London Phase would give Sussex a direct connection to Canary Wharf and beyond,” Mr Hart said.
Full details of BML2 can be found here and viewed in the map, reproduced here, from the project’s website.
In a statement, Mr Hart added: “George Osborne has unquestionably shown he is his own man, whilst the fact that he, rather than the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, has made this statement is exceptionally encouraging.
New hope for rail users
“We, therefore, trust that under his stewardship the BML2 project will be properly and fully explored for all its substantial economic, social and environmental benefits to London and the South East.
“As Chancellor, he more than anyone else, realises the potential it holds by giving the capital’s commercial heartland new horizons, as well as all rail-users new hope.”
Wealden MP Nus Ghani at rail summit
In a separate development, the Wealden Constituency MP, Nus Ghani, with other South East MPs, attended a rail summit with the Minister for Rail, Claire Perry, at Network Rail’s London Bridge headquarters.
She said: “We heard a lot of positive things, which I hope will give heart to passengers who are rightly frustrated by the poor quality of train services they have been experiencing.
Better communication with passengerss
“In particular, having highlighted my concerns a number of times over a long period, I am pleased by Southern’s recognition that it needs to improve its communication with passengers.
“It has now been decided, for example, that Southern’s social media team will be based in the control room, so that the information given to passengers will be both more timely and more accurate, and that staff on train platforms will be given tablets so that they can be better connected to the control room too.
“I am satisfied that the much-needed cultural shift to put greater focus on passengers is happening, and that Southern recognises that its performance must get better.
Statistics reveal passenger dissatisfaction
“I will be monitoring the situation carefully to make sure this happens, and will continue to push them on compensation claims, short form trains, hiring more drivers and unprecedented delays.”
The MP reported that the Southern representatives agreed with the MPs that “much more could and would be done to improve its performance, particularly given the very disappointing performance statistics revealed by Transport Focus, the independent watchdog representing the interests of rail passengers”.
The most recent statistics show that only 56% of Southern’s passengers are satisfied with reliability and punctuality, and only 27% are satisfied with the way in which Southern deals with delays.