To return the Uckfield (Wealden) Line to its former main line status as a fully-integrated part of the modern national rail network, including electrified double-track and reconnections to the South Coast and Tunbridge Wells.
The Wealden Line Campaign is not an enthusiasts’ organization, nor is it concerned with railway preservation or nostalgia. The WLC is entirely independent and has no association with, or connections to any other rail lobbying group, nationally or locally. It maintains no political allegiances, but welcomes support from across the political spectrum. It receives no subsidy or grants and remains entirely funded by public subscription and voluntary donations.
Speed, convenience, new destinations and opportunities for business, tourism and the public benefit have always been firmly at the forefront of the Campaign. In 1986 (the year of its inception) the aim was to reopen the line south of Uckfield to Lewes (closed 1969); to reopen the line into Tunbridge Wells (closed 1985); and to reopen the line between Selsdon and Elmers End (closed 1984).
Efforts were necessarily concentrated on the ‘key’ section (Uckfield to Lewes) even though we consider all the aforementioned routes possess important strategic functions in a strengthened national network. Throughout twenty-five years there have been repeated investigations and costly reports by a variety of consultants into reopening Uckfield to Lewes – every single one based on a low-cost, incremental footing (single-line, unelectrified, basic hourly service). Following the failure of the most recent and extensive investigation (2008) by Network Rail and East Sussex County Council costing £124,000 the WLC conducted a fundamental review of the route’s position and what the Campaign’s future strategy should be.
Around this time the rail industry had produced a whole series of highly-detailed Route Utilisation Strategies (among them Sussex, Kent, South London, London & SE) as well as forward-looking reports and discussion papers into coping with ever-rising and unmanageable demand in the busy South Eastern region around the capital.
Following a thorough analysis of these reports and consideration of the severe challenges facing the rail industry, in 2010 the WLC launched ‘Brighton Main Line 2’ (BML2) a radical approach aimed at overcoming the hitherto entrenched objections from both Government and industry to reopening south of Uckfield because any reopening into Lewes will necessitate trains facing towards Eastbourne rather than Brighton.
BML2 involves the provision of a new 1½ mile rail tunnel through the South Downs to create a new fast, direct, second main line between Brighton and London. This worthwhile capital investment (£50m) would pay for itself many times over and more than justify reopening the railway south of Uckfield. It transforms the business case and would, simultaneously, provide a far better route into Lewes (for BML2 direct Eastbourne services) than envisaged by Network Rail’s 2008 Study.
BML2 is not a campaign in itself, but is the project of the Campaign, which accordingly received the unanimous backing of WLC members during 2010. Because of the huge volume of new rail capacity it enables, BML2 similarly justifies the full reopening and electrification to main line status of the Tunbridge Wells line (with reconnections at both Eridge and Ashurst), whilst the benefits of BML2’s London Phase in creating a fast new route through Elmers End to London Canary Wharf/Crossrail and Stratford are increasingly being well-appreciated.
Further opportunities such as connecting the Brighton Main Line to Canary Wharf and beyond; introducing a united and dedicated, fast air/rail shuttle service between two of London’s principal airports Gatwick and Stansted (‘Stanwick’); and delivering a new Thameslink route across the eastern Thames are all possible with BML2.
The WLC is ardently pro-rail but not anti-car and recognizes the value and appropriateness of all forms of transport. Nevertheless, we strongly believe the railway is supremely placed as the preferred mass-mover of people in the overcrowded South East region and throughout the capital’s environs. We want to see BML2 implemented as soon as possible, operating efficient, fast and intensive services between London and the South Coast, augmenting the neighbouring Brighton Main Line as well as the equally-overloaded Tonbridge Main Line.
BML2 offers prosperity and opportunity for a progressive age whilst, most importantly, it protects the uniquely precious environment of the Green Belt, the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Downs National Park.
We are optimistic and enthusiastic about the role of the modern railway and all the benefits it can deliver and we are passionate about this project and what it can deliver for everyone. We believe the South East, as the engine of the nation’s economy, more than deserves the necessary investment and commitment from the Government and the industry to delivering BML2.