Campaigners seeking to get the rail line between Uckfield and Lewes reopened have commissioned transport experts to help build the case.
Railfuture, a national campaigning group, has appointed Jonathan Roberts Consulting to start “building a strategic alliance of stakeholders to promote a better bigger Wealden railway, including reopening the Uckfield – Lewes rail link”.
Railfuture is a separate organisation to BML2 which is seeking to build a direct line from Uckfield through the South Downs to Brighton and to develop north through Kent into London.
In a statement Railfuture said it proposed an “initial affordable solution for Uckfield to Lewes which can be delivered in a reasonable timescale, and be part of a wider vision for regional economic growth in the South Coast and Weald enabled by better travel links between main communities”.
The Uckfield to Lewes line closed in 1969 so that a new road – now the Phoenix Causeway – could be built to relieve traffic problems in Lewes.
Railfuture said: “Reconnecting the link would enable people in the Weald to commute to jobs and education in Brighton, allow through services from London to take visitors to the proposed water park in Newhaven, and help to relieve overcrowding on Brighton Main Line services.”
Railfuture have been working with local councils on plans for a car park and transport hub at the old station site in Uckfield.
Recently they advertised for expressions of interest from rail consultancies in preparing a new business case for reinstating the line, and have committed money from their volunteers’ fighting fund for this initiative.
Railfuture director Roger Blake added: “We selected JR Consulting because they submitted the most imaginative proposal. Jonathan Roberts was instrumental in gaining commitment from key stakeholders for the development of the East London Line Extension from Shoreditch to Dalston and we hope JRC can do the same for us.”
A study in 2008 showed that reinstatement of the line was technically possible but failed to make a business case.
Railfuture said: “This was because the potential stakeholders were not all aligned, actively supporting and promoting the proposal; and because the terms of reference were defined too narrowly, so that the study could not look at all the possible solutions to determine which would be most viable and can be funded soonest.
“Since 2008 circumstances have changed. There are a number of opportunities to improve the business case by reducing costs, by increasing developer contributions, and by capturing these key benefits: supporting the regeneration of Newhaven partially relieving BML1 peak capacity at Lewes providing access from the Weald to the South Coast towns without requiring additional network capacity at East Croydon or at London termini.”
Railfuture believes the line could be re-opened by 2022.
The group is holding a meeting at The Station, in Uckfield, on Thursday (6pm).