Railfuture is campaigning for reinstatement of the rail link between Uckfield and Lewes and electrification of the Uckfield line to improve access from the Weald to the employment centre of Brighton and to provide an additional route between the South Coast and London, which will relieve the Brighton Main Line.
STOP PRESS:Network Rail has submitted an application for planning permission to build a new Uckfield station car park, to open this summer. The old station site has been cleared for the car park, leaving just the old platforms and track bed overgrown.
The next step to reopen Uckfield-Lewes!
Recent events at Dawlish have shown the need for alternative routes to provide network resilience. A simple loop at Lewes would provide an alternative route between Brighton and Haywards Heath without reversing, which would have enabled a service to be maintained when Patcham Tunnel was flooded recently. Reinstating Uckfield - Lewes would provide an alternative route between Brighton and East Croydon, which would have enabled a service to be maintained when Balcombe Tunnel was flooded. This network resilience would also make it much easier for Network Rail to plan and implement the maintenance work which is so necessary to keep the Brighton Main Line running.
In our response to the draft CP5 Delivery Plan we proposed that since the Brighton Main Line has six of the top ten locations for reactionary delays, Network Rail use the Journey Time Improvement Fund to deliver Lewes-Uckfield reinstatement, Uckfield - Hever redoubling, and grade separation at East Croydon sooner than CP6, which is the earliest that would otherwise be possible.
The ORR Final Determination commits Network Rail to increase Uckfield line capacity by lengthening platforms to accommodate longer trains - but left the option open for Network Rail to propose alternative solutions. The DfT Invitation To Tender for the Thameslink Southern Great Northern franchise requires the new operator to provide these longer trains by December 2016. However in their draft CP5 Delivery Plan, Network Rail are continuing with the longer platform option, but not until March 2018. Railfuture also propose that longer trains on the Uckfield line be achieved by electrification - selective door opening and corridor connections between the Electrostar units would render longer platforms unnecessary at the smaller stations. Electrification would be better value for money, and as well as increasing capacity would shorten journey times, which is a key first step to the viability of trains between London and the Sussex Coast via a reopened Uckfield - Lewes line. We urge Network Rail to work with the franchise bidders and the local LEPs and county councils to jointly bridge the funding gap. Download the Railfuture response to the draft determination and refer to para 9.95.
East Sussex County Council has made electrifying and redoubling the Uckfield line and Marshlink its top priorities in the final version of its Rail Strategy and Action Plan. Railfuture urge ESCC to seek funding in the SELEP Strategic Economic Plan to make up the difference between what Network Rail has available for platform lengthening and what will be required, so that electrification can be completed by December 2016.
Bridge the gap: connect East Sussex
Travelling across or around East Sussex isn't quick or easy. Roads are congested, bus services are slow and finish early, and rail routes do not all link up.
- Wealden residents can only get work or education in Lewes or Brighton by congested roads and bus services
- Uckfield Line commuter services take 20 minutes longer than equivalent journeys on the Brighton Main Line
- Newhaven needs regeneration but has only two through trains to London
- Trains from Eastbourne, Lewes, Worthing, Hove and Brighton to London are overcrowded
- Journey times between Hastings and Brighton are too long
Brighton is the largest employment centre in the South East outside London, the Weald has a very high daily outflow of people for work, and Hastings has a high level of unemployment.
Railfuture put its money where its mouth is by engaging independent advisor Jonathan Roberts Consulting to assess the evidence of economic and transport needs in Sussex. The key recommendations to promote economic growth in East Sussex are:
- Uckfield-Lewes reopening to achieve affordable and effective journey times between the Weald, the Sussex Coast and Brighton
- Faster travel and extra capacity between the Sussex Coast and Gatwick, Croydon and London
- Electrification and other infrastructure which expands services and connections, reducing journey times - by through trains not changes
- Electrification of Marshlink and provision of Javelin services via Ashford to achieve acceptable London-Hastings journey times
- Investment in a direct Coastway connection between Polegate and Pevensey to reduce journey times to attractive levels along the main coastal corridor, between Brighton, the Sussex Coast and East Kent
- Coastway Metro service linking Eastbourne and Hastings, with more stations.
Extend train services from Uckfield to Lewes and the South Coast
A seven page article in the December 2013 issue of Modern Railways explains the Railfuture campaign to reinstate the Uckfield to Lewes rail line, which is the missing link in the Sussex railway network. This will create an additional through route between the Sussex coast and London, with the following benefits:
- direct train services between Kent, Surrey, the Weald, Lewes, and Brighton for education and jobs
- faster more reliable services between the Weald and London
- direct trains between London and Newhaven, supporting regeneration
- additional trains from Brighton, Eastbourne and Lewes to London, relieving the Brighton Main Line
- reduced traffic congestion around Lewes and Brighton.
Railfuture have identified 4 viable route options which enable direct trains between Brighton and London via Uckfield. Our preferred solution is the 'Lewes loop', which follows the A27 Lewes bypass and the Cockshut.
A partnership for incremental development
Other rail developments show new lines being delivered in phases, so Railfuture propose an incremental approach.
- Our target for CP5 (2014-19) is to accelerate and lengthen Uckfield services.
- CP6 (2019-24) is the first opportunity to lay new track, when we can reopen Uckfield–Lewes and extend time-competitive services to the Sussex coast, relieving BML and generating new journey opportunities to Brighton.
- When the constraints at East Croydon constraints are resolved, redoubling becomes feasible to provide more services.
- At points in this incremental development both electrification and a link to Tunbridge Wells become viable.
The simple initial solution can be funded because it is affordable, and can be delivered because it aligns with Network Rail planning and delivery processes. A business case meeting the combined needs can be made because it will enable economic growth, which is the political imperative across all levels of government. The reopening can be delivered within a decade, sooner than our aspiration for a second main line feeding into a cross-London link. More capacity can then be added incrementally over the next generation, in line with Network Rail plans for the Brighton Main Line.
Railfuture welcomed the announcement by Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin on 9th May that the Lewes - Uckfield rail route is to be re-examined by Network Rail, and have offered the JRC report on travel needs in Sussex to help define a vision of regional economic growth enabled by better travel links between communities and principal economic centres - which is an objective of the Network Rail Long Term Planning Process. More recently, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander described the Uckfield to Lewes line as important in the Parliamentary debate on National Infrastructure Plan, and the Network Rail study on Brighton Main Line was accelerated. Of course, if Network Rail determine that the need for resilience justifies reopening, then the incremental sequence may change to put an electrified Lewes loop first, followed by redoubling and electrification from Hurst Green right through to Lewes.
Successful rail reopenings have been promoted by a partnership of key stakeholders, including local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, and the rail industry. This is essential to long term success and allows access to new local sources of transport funding. We are working to build a consensus amongst potential stakeholders that reopening Uckfield-Lewes is justified, credible and deliverable, and so inspire them to support and actively promote this realistic, evidence-based approach and ensure that a viable scope for re-opening is agreed with Network Rail.
Find out more!
- Why our proposal will work
- Why the line is needed
- How our solution fits with Network Rail plans to improve the Brighton Main Line
- Why our simple approach will be viable
- The steps to make reinstatement happen
- The campaign so far
Listen to Norman Baker's support for electrifying the Uckfield line and reopening Uckfield - Lewes!
Reports from independent consultants:
- Access and Connections: East Sussex (report by Jonathan Roberts Consulting)
- Presentation of JRC report given at open meeting in Lewes on 18th July 2013
- Why improvements are needed on the existing BML route
- Why the Uckfield - Lewes business case is 3 times better than the 2008 study
You can download our latest campaign leaflet or our previous campaign leaflet 'Bridge the Gap: link up Sussex'.
You can also download the banners displayed at Uckfield Festival's Big Day on 13 July. If you support the Railfuture campaign, wish to keep up-to-date with our activities, and find out more about how YOU can play your part, please join us at Sussex and Coastway.
Follow us on Twitter @Uckfield_Lewes.