The DfT took the opportunity of the official opening of the Thameslink traincare depot at Three Bridges last week to publish the Terms of Reference for the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study, which will review the demand for rail travel and proposed rail schemes in the area between London and the South Coast. Keymer Junction (pictured) is the key constraint on the Brighton Main Line south of Three Bridges; Network Rail proposes quadruple track and a dive-under junction here to boost capacity. Alongside this study, local authorities must quantify the economic growth benefits which rail investment in the area would generate.
Terms of Reference
The terms of reference focus on the problem of poor on-time performance of services on the London – South Coast corridor, where the Brighton Main Line is the critical link. The study will identify the demand for services in this area over the short, medium and long term, assess the feasibility of the various schemes proposed to meet it, and determine the investment priorities with the aim of creating a strategic case for investment along the London - South Coast rail corridor. This is a radical shift of focus from the Lewes – Uckfield study announced in March, which aimed to identify the opportunities for local journeys and the diversionary capability that reinstating between Uckfield and Lewes would create.
Demand for services
The obvious demand is for peak-hour commuting from Brighton to London, but in fact the majority of commuters start their journey at intermediate stations on the Brighton Main Line such as Burgess Hill, where substantial housing development is planned, and Haywards Heath or at stations along the coast to the east and west of Brighton. Many do not travel as far as London. Many commuters have to stand for long periods, as our Standing Room Only article explains.
However the demand is not just for more capacity and better punctuality, it is also for quicker journeys. The Greater Brighton Devolution Prospectus asks government to commit to a high speed Brighton Main Line (maybe not literally a high speed line like HS1, but significantly faster than the Brighton Main Line is today) as well as faster train services across the area from Worthing and Newhaven. These demands may require additional potential schemes to be identified that have not been proposed to date.
The study must consider Brighton as a major destination in its own right, not just a dormitory for commuters. Just as faster services from London will increase business connectivity and therefore the economic growth of Brighton, so a diversionary route between London and Brighton is required to sustain Brighton’s vibrant visitor economy all week and all year. This diversionary route will need to be in place before significant development schemes are started on the Brighton Main Line.
The economic growth of Greater Brighton depends on recruiting employees from further afield, such as Uckfield where significant housing development is also planned. The study must consider the demand for access from the Weald to Brighton for education and job opportunities; this rail travel demand is not satisfied at all at the moment.
At the London end of the corridor, Canary Wharf wants direct services from Gatwick, Croydon and South London, whilst Gatwick needs greater connectivity and fast services from all areas of London. Other key demands include faster services between Eastbourne and London, direct services between Seaford and London to support the regeneration of Newhaven, and rail travel between West Kent and Brighton.
By considering priorities for the short, medium and long term, the terms of reference recognise the key principle of success through incremental development advocated by Railfuture. This principle is demonstrated in other rail development programmes such as Chiltern Railways' Evergreen (Oxford Parkway opens 26 October) and East-West Rail. This will not be a single one-size-fits-all solution, but an incremental programme of complementary projects. Reinstating Uckfield – Lewes in parallel with the schemes proposed by Network Rail in the next control period (CP6, 2019 – 2024) will ensure service continuity, immediately stimulate wider economic benefits for the area, and provide a platform for the long-term development of Thameslink 2 and a high speed Brighton Main Line.
The terms of reference also call for the study to identify funding opportunities. In addition to the potential for private sector funding contributions from Canary Wharf, Gatwick and other major employers, especially in the context of airport capacity growth at Gatwick, the Chancellor made the announcement last week that control of £26bn of business rates would be devolved to local government, and could be used to fund local infrastructure.
Whilst this study focuses on the transport investment case, a complementary economic (jobs and housing) investment case must be developed by the local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. This approach has been used successfully elsewhere, for example bringing HS1 services to Hastings, Wisbech reopening and East-West Rail. The challenge facing all stakeholders is to work together to identify a clear economic growth dividend which will convince the Chancellor that this programme represents a singularly worthwhile capital investment in long-term transport infrastructure development. Railfuture will work to foster collaboration amongst stakeholders with an interest in developing this programme to ensure that this study secures a successful outcome.
London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study Terms of Reference
Greater Brighton Devolution Prospectus – see page 65 of pdf
Thameslink 2 concept
Railfuture Uckfield – Lewes campaign
Standing Room Only article
Summer budget statement
Network Rail Sussex Area Route Study
A Platform for Growth article
Aims originally proposed for Lewes – Uckfield study
Spring budget statement