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More trains please… but how??

July 27, 2012

Well there is so much ‘good news’ coming from the Government about how the trains are all fantastic and getting better, but we need a reality check here.  There has not been stable continued investment in the railways which means there is still catching up to do.  Furthermore, many parts of the network still have to put up with appalling rolling stock – i was reminded of this on Tuesday as I saw the Pacers in Sheffield, awful old rickety trains!

The crux of the matter though is the network capacity which has hit its limits on a number of parts of the network.

Firstly we have the West Coast Main Line which is almost full, will be totally full by the end of decade and cannot take any more freight or intercity trains without sacrificing other services (which has already happened seeing the closure of 3 stations in Staffordshire – Norton Bridge, Barlaston and Wedgwood).  This fortunately has High Speed 2, the next sections of Britain’s national high speed rail network, in planing to be built by 2026 to Birmingham and 2033 to Leeds and Manchester.

Secondly we have the South London rail network with its many pinch points and bottlenecks.  I have written previously about the South London Metro and hope to see support rising for this in the future.  But recently I have become aware of the more formal and far more developed campaign to reopen the stretch of line between Uckfield and Lewes.  The campaign isknown as BML2 ie a 2nd main line to Brighton from London. Their website is http://www.bml2.co.uk (they are also on twitter) and i would urge everyone to give them support.

The idea is painfully simple.  This link when reopened can serve a number of purposes rather than just connecting Lewes and Uckfield.  You have a 2nd main line/diversionary route between London and Brighton.  You can send Eastbourne/Seaford via Lewes trains from London that way to make space through Gatwick and Haywards Heath on the current Main Line.  You can also reconnect Tunbridge Wells and the old Tunbridge Wells West station onto this line up to London via East Grinstead thus alleviating capacity restrictions on the South Eastern Main Line through Sevenoaks.  You can connect Brighton and Tunbridge Wells and places in between.  You can provide significant rail access in to Falmer which is home to Brighton & Hove Albion’s superb new football stadium.

This relatively simple piece of infrastructure reopening could significantly improve connectivity and capacity for Surrey, West Kent and East Sussex.  So a big shout out to the BML2 campaign and please let’s all support them!

This is what we need to look at across the country – where can we make a big difference and if we can do it relatively quickly and easily then it would be crazy to ignore it.

Finally I have developed 5 principles that every piece of transport investment, every scheme and policy should comply with to justify itself and support: affordability, accessibility, efficiency, efficacy and proportionality.  Although self-evident you sometimes wonder whether they are always fully considered every time – they should be!

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