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Brighton rail group seeks reinstatement of disused line

Campaigners seek second London to Brighton route to ease congestion on existing line.


End of the line: The Lewis line ends abruptly at Uckfield

Campaigners seeking the reinstatement of an 11km rail link in East Sussex have received a major boost ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Beeching report which axed it as part of a cull of 8,000km of Britain’s railways.

Brighton & Hove City Council has agreed to include the project in its city plan to be submitted to government in April, a move that has been applauded by campaign group BML2.

Publication of Richard Beeching’s Reshaping of British Railways report in 1963 led to the closure of around 30% of the rail network, wiping over 2,000 stations off the map (see box).

Since then, reinstatement of the Uckfield to Lewes line, which closed in 1969, has become the lynchpin of BML2’s campaign for a second main line from Brighton to London.

Reinstatement of the Uckfield-Lewes line was studied by Network Rail in 2008 but rejected by the Department for Transport on the grounds that its business case was too weak. But that study did not include extension of the new route into Brighton, which according to the BML2 campaign group is crucial to its proposals.

Network Rail’s Sussex Route Strategic Business Plan, published in January this year, reports a 40% rise in passenger numbers on the London to Brighton line over the past decade.

It predicts a further 30% increase over the next 10 years. But despite this forecast, significant expansion of capacity through Sussex is absent from the strategy.

“People from Network Rail have often said the trouble with BML2 is that it doesn’t connect with Gatwick or Haywards Heath, but a bypass of these bottlenecks is exactly what is needed,” said BML2 project manager Brian Hart. “The Sussex Route report reveals the enormous fix Network Rail is in for accommodating passenger growth in the South East. The business case for BML2 would be very good because of the massive release of pressure with addition of capacity.

A lot of people now think this is the way forward.”


Rolling back the Beeching cuts


As we approach of the 50th anniversary of the Beeching cuts NCE asks: - which rail services would you reinstate? Which ones would you close?

On 27 March 1963 a radical overhaul of the British railway network began with publication of Richard Beeching’s now infamous report “The Reshaping of British Railways”.

As the foundation of the British Railways Board’s plans to stem the cost to the public purse of running the network, Beeching recommended the closure of 2,363 stations and 8,000km of railway across the nation - an estimated 55% of all stations and 30% of railway lines - starting a process of change that would reshape the nation’s mass transport system.

In 1963 the railways were reeling from the competitive pressure exerted by the massive and sudden growth of roads and the new found desire for personal transport.

Cars had arrived and, as Beeching observed, left rail services in decline with many rural rail services becoming financially unviable.

Fifty years on the UK has a very different, much smaller network. But we also see unprecedented growth in demand for transport, prompting large scale investment plans to make the existing network work more effectively and toenhance and add capacity.

More surprising is the move towards reinstating routes such as the Borders Rail Line. Once abandoned as unaffordable and uneconomic, we now see the route being rebuilt to serve a new and growing community of travellers.

The question, of course, is what other lines could or should we reinstate?

To mark the 50th anniversary of Beeching next month NCE wants to hear your thoughts on the network’s development over the next 50 years.

Which other lines struck by the Beeching axe would you reinstate to help the UK to boost its economy and reduce transport congestion. Which of the nation’s existing lines would you chop, Beeching style, today to save money?

  • Send your thoughts, ideas and, if necessary plans and maps to NCE either by post to the address on page 3 or by email to and we will include the best, most interesting and most controversial in next month’s special feature.

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