Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has asked Network Rail to examine if re-opening the Lewes-Uckfield railway line will meet the demand for the future growth in rail travel.
The government’s rail investment strategy already requires additional rail capacity to be delivered between Uckfield and London Bridge by 2019. This is likely to be achieved by adding more carriages to trains running on the route.
Now a new study commissioned by the Secretary of State for Transport is looking at rail provision between London and the south coast further into the future and as part of its terms of reference will re-examine the case for a new line linking the Sussex towns.
Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am alive to local interest in re-opening this line and wider concerns about rail capacity between London and the south coast and this is why I have commissioned this study.
“It will help us to understand exactly what the issues are and build upon previous work that has looked at these questions.”
The Secretary of State for Transport visited Lewes station today to meet local MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker to discuss rail provision in the constituency.
The study will feed into decisions on the future funding of the railways.
The current rail investment strategy outlines funding priorities until 2019 and this work would inform any business case for changes to rail provision in the area beyond that date.
A press release from the Department for Transport says the line linking the two towns was closed in 1969 but there is local appetite to see it brought back into use.
Recent moves to devolve decision making for local transport schemes will also give greater freedom to local councils and enterprise partnerships to determine priorities and allocate funding accordingly.
Richard Eccles, Network Rail director of network strategy and planning, said: “The railway between London and Brighton is one of the busiest routes in the country and there is very little space available to run additional trains.
“As the number of passengers continues to grow, it is right that we look at a wide variety of options which may help provide extra capacity in future, ensuring that the rail network can continue to support and drive economic growth in the region.
“We are already reviewing the options for capacity enhancements to Brighton and the south coast corridor and this work will feed into a Sussex route study due for development in 2014.
“Within this we will include a review of the value that a re-opened Lewes-Uckfield line could play in meeting future needs”.
* Network Rail is currently negotiating to take over the land opposite Uckfield railway station to build a car park for commuters. More info can be found within this story about proposals to improve Uckfield High Street.