Could a second Brighton main line really be viable?

The proposed BML2 scheme offers more than just reopening Uckfield to Lewes, with wider benefits at both the London and Brighton ends. Government funding has been ruled out for the foreseeable future – but, as Robin Whitlock describes, there is much in the plan that deserves serious consideration.

IN January 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported that the 07.29 Brighton to London had arrived in London late every day throughout the previous year. Southern’s then interim managing director David Scorey responded that the company had not delivered the level of performance expected by its customers, stating that the network is extremely busy and congested.

Although the BML2 scheme could create benefits for passengers at the London and Brighton ends, funding is an issue because much of the core route passes through mostly rural areas. On May 19, 2004, two-car DMU No. 170723 approaches leafy Edenbridge Town on the remaining Uckfield line with a service to Oxted.

He used the analogy of the M25 at peak time, pointing out that the company is trying to run as many trains as possible and with as many carriages as possible. Welcome to daily life on the Brighton Main Line, one of Britain’s most congested railway routes.

Not much has changed since the Telegraph’s exposé. The blunt truth of the matter is that traffic on Britain’s rail network has grown significantly, in turn creating a major capacity problem. This is particularly true of the already-crowded routes serving London in the South East, of which the Brighton line is emblematic.

Over the years, the growing capacity problem has become so serious that at one point the Government was considering a takeover. It is clear that something has to be done. One of the options on the table, alongside upgrades of the Brighton Main Line (henceforth BML1) proposed by Network Rail, is the alternative plan to construct a second Brighton Main Line – BML2. Its main aim is to expand capacity while also enhancing the rail network as a whole and generating continued growth in London.

BML2 is a colossal scheme, as well as perhaps rather grandiose. But could it work? And how much interest is it attracting? The answer to the latter question is, despite a recent knockdown by the Government, actually rather a lot – and in the right places too.

Read more in the June issue of RE – on sale now!

 

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