Uckfield Line: New electrification hope

Electrification of the Uckfield Line is in a second wave of national rail projects being given an urgent appraisal.

Class 171 train heading to London

An afternoon up Southern train crosses Hempstead Lane on its way to Buxted

The scheme to extend electric trains from Hurst Green to Uckfield is under assessment in a second phase of what is known as Project Speed*, a government and Network Rail initiative to deliver rail projects quickly and efficiently.

Six schemes were considered in the first round and Uckfield is in the second wave of seven in a fast moving process with reviews carried out at sprint pace to determine which initiatives can be progressed.

Battery trains ‘ruled out’

At the moment, class 171 diesels operate the Uckfield to London Bridge service and earlier this year  it was thought that battery operated trains could be used in future on the services.

They would be powered by third rail electricity as far as Hurst Green and then would be battery operated to the end of the line at Uckfield, and vice versa.

However, a railway commentator has said that will not now happen.

Campaign group Railfuture has been seeking to have what it calls the “diesel island” of the Uckfield branch electrified since 2014.

A mid-evening train at London Bridge waiting to leave for Uckfield

Writing on the group’s website, Chris Page said: “The need for ten-coach trains during the peak makes battery operation unfeasible, and a sensible choice would be to extend the third rail electrification from Hurst Green.”


Chris Page of Railfuture

*Use of the word speed has nothing to do with how swiftly the trains run but is an indication of how fast projects could be carried out.

Speed stands for Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery

Earlier this year, we reported on the possibility of battery operated trains for the Uckfield Line and the franchising agreement to move 12 Uckfield 171s to the East Midlands. See our report here

In 2017, proposals to electrify the Uckfield Line were contained in a comprehensive report on Southern by Chris Gibb, a senior figure in the rail industry. See our report here

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