Calls in Parliament for second main line to London

Landslip causes disruption to rail services. Pic Steve Robards
Landslip causes disruption to rail services. Pic Steve Robards

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has championed a second rail line between Brighton and London via Lewes.

Speaking in the House of Commons last Thursday, she said the existing Brighton line was “in dire trouble”, adding: “It struggles and creaks through inadequate capacity.”

The Brighton Pavilion MP made her hard-hitting comments during a parliamentary debate on inter-city rail investment.

She said: “We need some real vision and commitment to get Brighton the second London line that we so desperately need. It is essential to have not only increased capacity, but a fast alternative route for passengers at times of disruption.”

Planned engineering works over the festive season and a resulted in the temporary suspension of trains between Gatwick and London.

There will be no trains between Gatwick and London again this Sunday because planned engineering works are going on at Purley and trains cannot be diverted via a line to the west because of the landslip at Ockley, near Horsham.

In 2012, a partial collapse inside Balcombe Tunnel closed part of the Brighton Main Line for 24 hours, causing massive disruption for commuters who were shuttled on buses between Haywards Heath to Three Bridges.

Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, Simon Kirby, said in the Commons: “Commuters have simply had enough.”

The Department for Transport announced in a letter to Wealden MP Charles Hendry last August that Network Rail would be looking at capacity issues on the corridor between London and the south coast and that part of its review would include ‘the contribution that re-opening of the former Lewes–Uckfield line could make in meeting future capacity needs’.

The stretch of line was closed in 1969, effectively severing a direct route to London.

Responding to comments made by Caroline Lucas and Simon Kirby last Thursday,Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said: “The department received a draft in December of the report [the London and South Coast Rail Study] which was carried out by Network Rail - and I expect to see a final version within the next couple of months.”Ms Lucas said: “It is critical that the study should be a thorough review of capacity between the Sussex coast and London, covering all the options to end the chaos that we so regularly experience on this critical rail artery into London.”

Caption: A notice at Haywards Heath station showing the disruption when train services were resumed after Christmas. Picture by Steve Robards.