Capacity solutions for Sussex - Kent - Surrey and London
WEALDENLINK introduces additional rail paths for London & South East to the Sussex Coast LONDON BRIDGE
EAST CROYDON SEVENOAKS
Mileages between Newhaven and London
TUNBRIDGE WELLS GATWICK
The Brighton Line is over-full, but there is no sense in building more trains if there isn’t any more track capacity on routes between the south coast and London. Reinstating 7½ miles between Lewes and Uckfield provides this, giving us not only a valuable addition, but an alternative route when the Brighton Line is out of action. The 61-mile route via Oxted also serves a busy and highly-populated corridor - second only to the Brighton Line. Better still, reinstating 4½ miles between Crowborough and Tunbridge Wells introduces yet another strategic link to London via Tonbridge. This is another highly-populated corridor and reconnects major towns all along the way. At just 64 miles, it is a practical and sensible means of relieving pressure on the Brighton Line. Because major rail hubs and large towns are all re-joined with these short connections, it opens up new revenue markets for the train operators and provides many more destinations and travelling choices for the public. Network Rail takes on only 12 additional miles to maintain, but this marginal cost is vastly outweighed by a significant increase in valuable track access charges. The company also gains greater operational flexibility with fewer penalties caused by unavoidable engineering occupations.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
Among UK reinstatement projects WEALDENLINK is unsurpassed in delivering the most network capacity
“It’s a good project - I want this to succeed” “I think you have a very good case, I would really like this to go ahead” “It would be a feather in the cap of the DfT”
Tom Harris, Under-Secretary of State for Transport © Simon Weir / Rail Professional
The WEALDENLINK delegation to meet Tom Harris in June 2007: Ian Smith, Brian Hart, Duncan Bennett.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
Background: Part 1 LEWES - UCKFIELD
Uckfield / Oxted / Tunbridge Wells and London Haywards Heath Gatwick London
~ LOST TO A ROAD SCHEME
1964 - Transport Minister Ernest Marples approved Stage 1 of Lewes Relief Road with a 75% grant being given towards the £350,000 scheme. A conflict then developed between the new road (Phoenix Causeway) and bridging the railway.
1965 - British Railways applied to Parliament to retain Uckfield line as a through route to the Sussex Coast by re-opening original alternative link (facing direct to Newhaven and Eastbourne). This would save the road scheme £135,000 by not having to build a bridge over the Brighton railway and this stretch of line could be abandoned.
AY USEW A C NIX PHOE
LEWES Newhaven Seaford
1966 - Act to re-open alternative link granted by Parliament 1967 - £95,000 for alternative rail link refused, whereby Uckfield line’s strategic purpose was lost. Consequently BR applied for abandonment of all railways between Lewes and Tunbridge Wells and Oxted (Hurst Green). Huge protests followed and Government’s Transport Users’ Consultative Committee urged retention of lines, but Transport Minister Barbara Castle deferred a decision. Meanwhile, the road construction continued unabated. 1968 - The new Transport Minister Richard Marsh finally permitted closure only between Lewes-Uckfield to allow the pressing completion of Stage 1 of the road scheme.
Large rally in Tunbridge Wells against proposed rail closures
1969 - February: Lewes-Uckfield train service withdrawn. March: Track removed and embankment cut through. July: Stage 1 (Phoenix Causeway) opened. September: County Council’s consultants recommended against continuing with Lewes Relief Road, whereby stages 2 & 3 were abandoned after the Minister gave an assurance to fund a southern bypass for Lewes by the mid-1970s. Railway ended up being lost for 400 yards of local road.
Within days of closure the embankment was cut through. The Relief Road was Supposed to solve traffic congestion. Paradoxically, by breaching the railway, it ended all train services between Brighton-Tonbridge and Brighton-London via Uckfield.
Ashford Hastings Eastbourne
In response to public clamour to re-open Lewes-Uckfield the County Council agreed to safeguard the trackbed.
Background: Part 2 ERIDGE - TUNBRIDGE WELLS
1985: Birchden Junction leading to London via Oxted (left) and London via Tonbridge (right). On such an overcrowded network there cannot be a more graphic example of wasting capacity and opportunity. Only one track (far left) is operational today for Southern’s Uckfield line services. The remainder is either lifted, left derelict, or periodically used for ‘heritage’ railway purposes.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
British Rail based its justification for the withdrawal of passenger services between Tunbridge Wells Central and Eridge entirely on the revenue between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West stations. In fact this involved the loss of the Tonbridge-Eridge service which, although greatly devalued over the years, still provided a useful connection between routes. Worse still, the line’s potential role in the south’s housing expansion was ignored.
British Rail chose to dispense with 4½ miles of this former main line connecting Surrey, Sussex and Kent rather than spend £¾m on a backlog of deferred track maintenance.
BR also anticipated saving £½m rather than renewing Grove Junction as part of its £26m 1986 Hastings Line electrification scheme.
BR’s preoccupation was to sell for redevelopment a large area of land worth £4m which included all of the spacious Tunbridge Wells West station. This regrettable decision was heavily influenced by pressure to off-set the annual support to the railways through the Government’s Public Sector Obligation Grant.
Despite a High Court action, public protests, and TUCC recommendations that the line should be retained and upgraded, Transport Minister Nicholas Ridley still sanctioned its closure.
Background: Part 3 HURST GREEN - UCKFIELD
1988 Minimal maintenance by BR on the Uckfield branch in the 1980s led to severe speed restrictions, some as low as 20mph on safety grounds. Commuters deserted in droves to other lines and housing growth continued. 1990 BR threatened to close the Uckfield Line if track rationalization didn’t go ahead. Despite fears over safety and reliability, the route was partially singled. 1991 Uckfield’s station was closed and replaced by one platform and single line east of the High Street.
Eridge: Where single-line now constrains capacity
Uckfield 1991: Where this part of the network has withered since 1969
2001 Electrification of Hurst Green - Uckfield was shelved with decision to renew 40 year-old diesel stock. 2003 New class 171 Turbostar fleet gradually introduced. All-day direct services to London Bridge proved extremely popular. Patronage rose sharply and exceeded all expectation. 2007 Network Rail Business Plan recognized need for redoubling single-line sections, extending station platforms, longer trains and ‘possible extension of services to South Coast’. 2008 Network Rail entered contract with local authorities to undertake a £130,000 study into reopening Lewes - Uckfield as an extension of services to Newhaven.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
Uckfield 2008: Where short trains from London terminate, rather than usefully go on to the coast. Space exists here for a return to double track with two platforms.
A strategic part of the Southern Electrification Programme VICTORIA LONDON BRIDGE
Completion date and project 1933
Haywards Heath and Brighton to Lewes, Eastbourne, Seaford & Hastings
East Croydon-Lewes-Tunbridge Wells (scheme deferred)
East Croydon-Oxted-East Grinstead
Further electrification abandoned.
SEVENOAKS OXTED TONBRIDGE Ashford / Dover
THREE BRIDGES CRAWLEY
HORSHAM CROWBOROUGH HAYWARDS HEATH UCKFIELD
BURGESS HILL ARUNDEL LEWES
NEWHAVEN BRIGHTON LITTLEHAMPTON
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
Hurst Green opened in 1961 for combined train services to Tunbridge Wells West and East Grinstead
OXTED LINES ELECTRIFICATION 1958-1964 THROUGH ELECTRIC SERVICES ADDITIONAL SPLITTING SERVICES British Railways announced the electrification programme of Oxted Line services in 1958 to follow on from the completion of Kent Coast Phases I and II. Introduction of full Oxted Line electric services was scheduled for summer 1964.
GATWICK EAST GRINSTEAD
TONBRIDGE Central TUNBRIDGE WELLS WEST
Fast through services between London and Brighton via Crowborough would be introduced. More intensive commuter services would also operate between London Victoria and East Grinstead and Tunbridge Wells West with trains splitting and joining at Hurst Green. This completely new station was specifically commissioned for this scheme with long platforms to accommodate the intended 12-car trains. It was opened on 12 June 1961 (on the same day that new electric trains commenced Phase II operation on Kent Coast lines). In preparation, a new signal box opened at Groombridge in 1958 as part of continuing Southern electrification. This programme of modernization faltered with the proposed closure of LewesUckfield. When this finally happened in 1969 the Groombridge-Ashurst loop was closed at the same time whilst the spiral of decline continued with Eridge-Tunbridge Wells being similarly extinguished in 1985.
ERIDGE CROWBOROUGH HAYWARDS HEATH BURGESS HILL
The former main line from London Victoria to Tunbridge Wells. The new control box of 1958 ended up lasting only 11 years after the entire Oxted lines electrification scheme was dropped. New housing was allowed to obstruct the track at this point in 1992, but a realignment is possible to the right of the platform.
Electrified (double and multiple track) Non-electrified track Non-operational track Removed Track Former network now used Crawley by ‘heritage’ operators Ifield -
Main towns (above 15,000 population)
- Oxted - Hurst Green
- Balcombe - Christ’s Hospital
- Frant - Wadhurst
- Billingshurst - Stonegate
Crowborough Haywards Heath
- Buxted - Robertsbridge - Wivelsfield
Uckfield - Battle
- Barcombe Mills Hassocks
- Crowhurst - W. St Leonards
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
CONSTRAINTS ON BRIGHTON LINE CAPACITY EAST CROYDON & LONDON Keymer: Where all services east of Brighton have to merge.
Balcombe Tunnel Junction Balcombe Tunnel
Balcombe Ouse Valley Viaduct
Multiple lines from London converge to two lines between Balcombe Tunnel Junction and Brighton. Four tunnels, the listed Ouse Valley Viaduct, six busy intermediate stations and flat junctions such as Keymer impose severe capacity constraints throughout this section. Any future speeding-up of services is impossible because of insufficient headways. The route is already at capacity and an increase in the number of trains between London and the Sussex Coast through Haywards Heath is also impossible. Network Rail’s recent investigations for DfT to increase capacity with the introduction of double-deck trains suggest £800m on infrastructure alone (lowering track in tunnels and stations) to permit UIC GB gauge trains to operate. An alternative proposal of extending conventional trains to 16-car length indicates an expenditure of £900m. But this would involve an enormous upheaval in moving points and track to accommodate platform lengthening.
Both options are extremely costly and would slow services through extended dwell times at stations while all these Haywards Heath passengers get on and off. Similarly, these longer or higher capacity trains would still be hampered by unavoidable Haywards Heath incidents such as late-running, accidents, train failures, Tunnel derailments, adverse weather conditions, etc.
Wivelsfield Clayton: One of four long tunnels on this busy stretch of Railway.
Network Rail would still require periodic engineering blockades and weekend possessions to maintain a heavilyused railway upon which trains run every few minutes.
COASTWAY Reasonable diversionary routes are no longer available EAST LINES whereby long-distance train journeys are imposed upon Hassocks Clayton Tunnel
many hundreds of people. Alternatively, Rail Replacement Buses are highly unpopular and are always a very poor substitute for a train journey. If the Brighton Line is to meet the demand being imposed upon it, then only by increasing capacity on the parallel Uckfield route can the current and future demands for high quality rail travel ever be satisfied.
COASTWAY WEST LINES
BRIGHTON WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
SCOPE OF WEALDENLINK’S IMMEDIATE REGIONAL BENEFIT LONDON Such short links to bring far greater choice, flexibility and capacity to a large region
Haywards Heath Uckfield Arundel
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
THAMESLINK CHARING CROSS
WEALDENLINK offers the introduction of additional or combined services from the Uckfield Line to London Charing Cross and Cannon Street. Distances between London and these Hastings and Uckfield Line stations are virtually the same.
LONDON BRIDGE 0m
ALL MILEAGES FROM LONDON BRIDGE TONBRIDGE 28
TUNBRIDGE WELLS CENTRAL 32 TUNBRIDGE WELLS WEST 33
TUNBRIDGE WELLS WEST WOULD ALSO HAVE A FAR GREATER FUNCTION AS A TERMINAL POINT
FRANT 35 ERIDGE 38 CROWBOROUGH 42
BUXTED 47 UCKFIELD 49
WADHURST 37 STONEGATE 42
ETCHINGHAM 46 ROBERTSBRIDGE 48 BATTLE 54
CROWHURST 56 WEST ST LEONARDS 59
WARRIOR SQUARE 60 HASTINGS 61
SEAFORD 67 WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
Additional rail paths to London from the South Coast linking major commuter towns. Increased track capacity to enable longer trains to serve these key commuter stations. Maximum operational flexibility for the train operators at peak periods and at weekends. Improved performance for Network Rail. New markets for the train operators and new travelling opportunities for the public. Whether introducing additional services, or joining and splitting trains, the potential to increase the overall network capacity is substantial. Because distances between London and Hastings / Uckfield Line commuter stations are approximately the same, the introduction of WEALDENLINK will succeed from day one. Commuters are obliged to drive long distances to remote country stations such as Stonegate (pop. 4,000) to use trains to Cannon Street / Charing Cross whereas Crowborough (pop. 22,000) - also 42 miles from London - has no direct train service to these London termini.
Tonbridge - where trains could usefully and profitably serve the busy corridor to Lewes.
The key to increasing capacity on the Brighton Main Line rests in increasing capacity on the Uckfield Line. Ultimately, this will only be achieved through the full implementation of BR’s 1964 Oxted Lines Electrification Programme. Over-demand at East Croydon and Oxted Line stations can be alleviated with the additional capacity offered with the route through Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks.
The viability of the closed Eridge-Tunbridge Wells link does not enter the equation because this would simply be a 4½ mile stretch of commuter line between two stations. Any train for Charing Cross or Cannon Street entering Crowborough station is hardly likely to find itself short of willing passengers .... The Uckfield Line will be second only to the Brighton Line because of its highly-populated towns in close proximity to places such as Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Tunbridge Wells etc. The continuing absence of this supporting route lies at the very root of the problems faced by the network, most noticeably the Brighton Line, but also growing demand and congestion at Tunbridge Wells Central. Although some frequencies have been increased to their maximum, rail infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth. Consequently the problems of congestion continue to be exacerbated in direct consequence of the Uckfield Line being seriously diminished.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
This vital connection between Kent and Sussex operated for well over a century until closure in 1985. Although formation and bridges were constructed for double-track, it remained single line operation throughout. Even so, this section carried 58 trains per day by 1958. Originally, BR intended electrifying this connection and upgrading the Tonbridge - Uckfield route because it served a growing commuter area. Resignalling to abolish four manual boxes at Grove Junction, Tunbridge Wells A, B, and Birchden Junction was also considered. In 1982 BR’s preferred option in electrifying the Tonbridge Hastings line was to convert the narrowest of this route’s tunnels to single-line so that standard rolling stock could be introduced. Grove tunnel at Tunbridge Wells West was not affected because it could already accept standard stock. However, because of the devalued nature of the route following the abandonment of the 1964 electrification scheme and the increasing pressure on BR from the Government to cut costs, the line was deemed surplus. BR managers admitted this controversial decision was primarily influenced by the release of extensive land at Tunbridge Wells West for retail redevelopment.
Calls were made to re-open the line as part of Network SouthEast. Most of the land at TW West would still be developed by Sainsbury’s but incorporating a strategic rail link through the site. A new station ‘Linden Park’ adjoining the development would have catered for the growing number of commuters at the cramped Tunbridge Wells Central station on the Hastings Line. Events have proved this a worthy and visionary concept, particularly in the present difficulties operating trains to and from Tunbridge Wells Central, turning them around, over-crowding and lack of capacity. The £5m turn-back siding for 2009 will serve no purpose other than shunting trains. This public money could have been better spent usefully extending the railway into Tunbridge Wells West. Grove connection is an important strategic rail link and remains an immensely valuable transport corridor. In 2001 it was handed over for the nominal sum of £1 to Railway Paths Ltd (a subsidiary of Sustrans). Covenants protect it for future railway purposes.
1994 inspection survey by British Rail. A Mott MacDonald study in 1997 considered £100,000 would be required to restore Grove Tunnel to operating standards.
More capacity with Grove connection
Tunbridge Wells Central
Grove Hill Tunnel (Restricted, now slab-tracked)
Tunbridge Wells West Grove Tunnel 1985 Overgrown but still a useful link between Kent and Sussex
Lines in station limits to be reversible
nd berla Cum
( ing sid
Photo © Nick Catford : www.subbrit.org.uk
) 09 20
Grove Connection 2007 A huge opportunity for increasing capacity going to waste
Location for 2009 Turn-back siding
k bac rnTu
Grove Connection 1986 Generous allowances for relaying double track
Warwick Park Ro ad
As illustrated here, Grove Connection was built to a generous formation width. Although this entire spur remains reserved for future railway use and could comfortably accommodate double lines for main line operation, rather than ‘growing the railway’ it grows saplings and weeds. Both up and down lines would hold trains of 12-car length for maximum operational flexibility and capacity. If required, up trains could clear Tunbridge Well West platforms and wait here before proceeding into Tunbridge Wells Central and on to London. Similarly, down trains could clear the Hastings line and stand here should it be necessary to await the passage of an up train leaving the West station. Capacity will always be constrained on the Tunbridge Wells-Hastings section, where no housing growth is anticipated anywhere along its length. In sharp contrast, the busy Tunbridge Wells-Lewes corridor with its partly-defunct railway has enormous potential for increasing capacity Strawberry Hill Tunnel (Restricted, now single-line) and solving congestion. With its towns scheduled for even greater growth in housing and commuter traffic, the need is urgent, the possibilities are substantial and the outcome rewarding - if the right political decisions are made.
Note: Grove Tunnel is often erroneously confused with Grove Hill tunnel on the restricted Hastings Line. Grove tunnel was never subject to the Hastings route gauge restrictions.
KEY CONNECTIONS: The Ashurst-Groombridge Spur This was once part of a main line between London Victoria and Tunbridge Wells. As such, it formed an intrinsic part of BR’s intended 1964 Electrification Programme to serve East Grinstead and Tunbridge Wells. Despite eventual closure along with Lewes-Uckfield in 1969, its valuable potential remains. As part of WEALDENLINK it would considerably enhance operational flexibility and provide an additional direct route between London and Tunbridge Wells.
It would also enable Tunbridge Wells to be included in the Thameslink Expansion TUNBRIDGE WELLS TONBRIDGE LONDON & KENT COAST
EAST CROYDON ASHURST LONDON VICTORIA LONDON BRIDGE
ADDITIONAL ROUTES TUNBRIDGE WELLS WEST
LEWES BRIGHTON NEWHAVEN EASTBOURNE
37½ miles to London Bridge via Oxted
33½ miles to London Bridge via Tonbridge
The Eridge-Tunbridge Wells section is now safeguarded by both regional and local authority planning policies. However, these came too late to prevent a housing estate being built on the former goods yard at Groombridge which was regrettably allowed to encroach right across the original main line alignment (shown in red). As illustrated, the current ‘heritage’ train operators are restricted by tight curves through this location. This arrangement is clearly inappropriate for the restoration of the route to the national rail network. Mott MacDonald engineers considered as practical the suggested re-alignment (shown in blue) to accommodate double track for normal railway operation. This would necessitate some earthworks, a concrete retaining wall along the cutting side, as well as a new overline bridge. Housing TUNBRIDGE WELLS TONBRIDGE LONDON & KENT COAST
New (resited) bridge required
EAST CROYDON LONDON VICTORIA LONDON BRIDGE THAMESLINK
LEWES BRIGHTON NEWHAVEN EASTBOURNE
Groombridge re-alignment: though regrettable, the problem here is not considered by consulting engineers to be difficult or expensive to overcome.
Former station platform New alignment
TUNBRIDGE WELLS WEST D
LINDEN PARK ROAD STATION
APPROXIMATE AREA OF SITE
D ROA ARK
KP WIC WAR
AD FRANT RO
ROA DGE I R E A26
NS ARDE G N E LIND Tunbridge Wells West is the KEY location to increasing network capacity and flexibility, improving train services across the South East and enhancing the expansion of Thameslink. The superstore partially obstructs the rail route, although Sainsbury’s has given a written undertaking to remove any buildings (at their cost) should the railway be reopened. Currently, the potential of the site is largely wasted on large areas of ground level car parking. There exist substantial opportunities to imaginatively redesign the whole area and obtain far more value from the site. A modified or new superstore incorporating multi-storey car parking for both shoppers and commuters would make significantly better use of the land. The listed station buildings, now a restaurant, would benefit from sympathetic restoration whereby, with its new direct rail links, this superior station would once again become a vibrant part of the town and the nearby Pantiles area of Tunbridge Wells. Unlike the cramped Tunbridge Wells (Central) this magnificent station could comfortably accommodate 12-car trains and provide all the capacity the region is demanding.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
“The St. Pancras of the Weald”
Population: Growth and Distribution OVER 100,000 60,000 - 100,000 40,000 - 60,000 20,000 - 40,000 10,000 - 20,000 UNDER 10,000
TUN WELLS 62,000
HAYWARDS HEATH 25,000
LEWES 17,000 WORTHING 65,000
THE MAIN POPULATION CENTRES IN THE AREA. WEALDENLINK WILL SUCCEED THROUGH JOINING RAIL HUBS AND THE GROWING COMMUTING TOWNS
STONEGATE 4,000 BUXTED 5,000
BATTLE 7,000 HEATHFIELD 13,000
BURGESS HILL 29,000
EAST GRINSTEAD 27,000 CROWBOROUGH 22,000
HORSHAM 29,000 BILLINGSHURST 7,000 PULBOROUGH 5,000
RINGMER 5,500 POLEGATE 16,000
NEWHAVEN 13,000 SEAFORD 23,000
EASTBOURNE 85,000 LOCAL PLANS PARTICULARLY IDENTIFY HAILSHAM, POLEGATE, UCKFIELD, NEWHAVEN AND LEWES FOR MAJOR HOUSING GROWTH
Population: Growth and Distribution
Since 1969 the population of Uckfield has tripled from 5,000 to 15,000. Planning approval for another 1,800 homes is being sought. Crowborough has witnessed similar expansion during the same period with its population doubling to 22,000.
Uckfield 2008 Yet more new housing development
Instead of being upgraded to manage this growth, the busy Tunbridge Wells - Lewes corridor has seen its rail connections diminish over the past forty years. Consequently, South Coast towns take the brunt of this ever rising tide of road traffic because there are no longer any train services.
Apart from the obvious exception of the Brighton Line, no equivalent pace of growth has taken place in towns and villages along adjacent rail routes to the Sussex coast (compare Tunbridge Wells - Hastings and Horsham Littlehampton). Population numbers here have largely stayed the same and these places are not being required to accommodate the Government’s housing quotas. Previous direct train services such as Sevenoaks-Tonbridge-Uckfield-Brighton; London-Crowborough-Brighton; London-Croydon-Oxted-Tunbridge Wells West were all lost as a direct result of the closure of Uckfield-Lewes. To make matters even worse, the Wealden District Plan specifically targets Uckfield, Hailsham, Polegate as the towns to take the significant proportion of 10,000 extra homes. The Lewes District Plan is similarly looking to Newhaven and Lewes to absorb its major house building obligations over the next two decades. Given the high cost of new homes and the low wage economy of East Sussex it is inevitable that commuting to London will substantially increase. At the moment all these South Coast towns will have to rely on additional capacity being found on the Brighton Main Line. Inevitably, the promised extra capacity with more rolling stock and longer trains will quickly be negated as more and more people move into the area. Newhaven and Seaford remain the only South Coast towns with no all-day direct train services to London - this is because there are no spare paths through Haywards Heath. Only two ‘up’ and one ‘down’ through (splitting) services are provided during the peak. The solution - extending, redoubling and electrifying the railway between Hurst Green-Uckfield-Lewes to feed directly into Newhaven seems obvious, but even though Network Rail has suggested this in its 2007 Business Plan, such a worthwhile upgrading still awaits a political decision and approval from the Department for Transport. Unfortunately, the continuing absence of these additional rail links to the South Coast via Uckfield will only encourage further railheading, particularly to the Brighton Main Line.
Before closure in 1969 70% of revenue at Uckfield station was southwards travel
THE UCKFIELD LINE Under-used and under-valued
WEALDENLINK offers the speedy introduction of useful additional routes
An 82 mile diversion is necessary whenever the Brighton Line is inoperative south of Three Bridges. Alternatively, Rail Replacement Buses are required to transfer passengers between stations. The costs incurred by Network Rail and the train operators are significant, whilst the indirect loss to businesses and the public is never considered. It doesn’t have to be like this. It’s often claimed that the Uckfield Line could not be used because it remains unelectrified. But we divert the passengers not the trains - as happens regularly on London Underground and with the minimum of disruption. London-Brighton travellers could change at nearby Lewes onto direct Wealdenlink services (Newhaven-London) and be spared the extra 20 miles going via Littlehampton or the misery and inconvenience of buses. Better still, if Network Rail electrifies the Lewes-Hurst Green section it would be possible to divert Coastway East electric trains directly onto Wealdenlink. If the Lewes Turnback is similarly incorporated then there would be no requirement for Brighton people even to change trains.
“I would like to add my support for your campaign to reopen the Wealden Line’s missing links. My company is based in Brighton with offices in other countries, and arranges a lot of travel for its employees, making use of all London airports. This includes some travel at weekends when staff need to travel to or return from destinations. In updating some internal travel advisory documents and when talking to staff directly, I have suggested that staff avoid using the main Brighton to London line at weekends (and sometimes other occasions) due to the continual engineering works that cause regular havoc to services. Especially for our staff travelling from our Bulgarian office and often arriving at Luton confused, they are faced with a headache having to detour via Littlehampton to get here. For these reasons we usually recommend the coach instead, although that isn't always a satisfactory option. With the reopening of the Lewes - Uckfield link, benefits would certainly be felt further afield such as here, with passengers from the area having a less inconvenient alternative route to London and other destinations. I am sure that there would be a reasonable increase in the volume of passengers using the service on such occasions.” Peter Gumbrell, Account Executive, Eurocash Corporation, Brighton
Much more capacity with Lewes-Uckfield returned to the national network
Oxted Three Bridges
50 miles 62 miles 82 miles
Haywards Heath Uckfield
WEALDENLINK - itâ€™s all about capacity
To Seaford, Eastbourne Hastings, Ashford etc
WEALDENLINK Introducing more capacity and flexibility into the network
New Turn-back siding Re-aligned Up Line
THE LEWES TURN-BACK SIDING
This project would benefit both Brighton and Wealden Lines.
SUGGESTED TURN-BACK OPERATION:
It would enable direct running between London and Brighton via Uckfield as well as provide an alternative direct route between Brighton and Wivelsfield when this section is non-operational.
Trains from London via Uckfield or Haywards Heath run through platform 1 and go forward into turn-back siding. Train reverses into platform 4 (reversible line) and continues to Brighton.
This installation would be value for money and return the investment - principally by providing entirely new opportunities for rail journeys, but saving time and penalties on Brighton Line routine maintenance.
Brighton-London trains (via Uckfield or Haywards Heath) run through platform 3 or 4 and forward into turn-back. Train reverses into platform 2 and continues journey. Trains from Ashford, Eastbourne and Seaford to Brighton use platform 5
To Haywards Heath, Uckfield, London etc.
BASED ON SCHEME DESIGNED IN 1998 BY MOTT MACDONALD (Not to scale)
Capacity cannot be increased or the situation improved just by attempting to cram more trains onto the Brighton line. We must spread the load by reintroducing capacity currently awaiting development.
Hever: Two fast lines from London - but only one train an hour uses these tracks
Improved signalling has a role, but as train operators know, whilst this always works perfectly in theory, it rarely does in practice. The more over-stretched a line is, the less reliable it becomes. With 12 trains an hour using a double track route, it takes only the slightest incident to cause chaos. Only 1 train an hour goes to Uckfield off-peak and on Saturdays (and just 2 during the peak) whilst the Brighton Line is expected to meet all the heavy demand to the Sussex Coast. Is it really the best use of resources having a railway which runs 46 miles from London but for a few miles of track is prevented from reaching the busy coastal towns?
At the moment the Oxted lines occupy 5-6 peak hour paths each way through East Croydon and 3 during the off-peak. With Lewes-Uckfield re-opened these trains could all have started from the coast - not just East Grinstead or Uckfield. To fully unlock this capacity we need the Uckfield line extended to Hamsey (Lewes) and the 32 route miles between here and Hurst Green electrified. There is even the signalling at Oxted to join and split trains. This would provide 3 extra paths each way between the South Coast and London during the day but, even better, as many as 6 at the peak. There is also the significant benefit of the extra destinations - plus all the flexibility of having another route to the coast which runs virtually parallel to the Brighton Main Line. Short-formation trains between Uckfield and London use train paths through East Croydon which could be better utilized by much longer trains to and from the South Coast via Uckfield and Crowborough.
As part of Wealdenlink the railway through Crowborough could provide more capacity. The 08:02 from Haywards Heath to London is 12 cars. The 08:02 from Uckfield is 2 cars
The Uckfield line and its short defunct sections are prime candidates for in-fill electrification in an otherwise surrounding electric network. It would be cost effective and immensely beneficial to the rail industry and the public. Of course the key to unlocking all this capacity is the rebuilding of the short Lewes-Uckfield section.
WEALDENLINK - itâ€™s all about capacity
Number of trains between London and South Coast during peak 2 hour period
21 HAYWARDS HEATH
9 TUNBRIDGE WELLS
S O U T H
To London 07:00 - 09:00 From London 17:00 - 19:00
C O A S T
D E S T I N A T I O N S
Insufficient capacity is flattening growth on South East routes and having a serious impact on certain sections, most notoriously the Brighton Main Line. In the 2 hour period between 07:00 and 09:00 the Brighton Line has to accommodate 21 trains to London departing from Haywards Heath. Less than a fifth of this number are able to depart from Uckfield in the same period because sections of this route remain singled. In the evening peak 22 trains serve Haywards Heath and go on to south coast destinations. In contrast, only 4 trains can run to Uckfield in this same 2 hour evening peak period and nothing has been able to usefully continue on to the south coast since 1969. The Uckfield line was prevented from fulfilling its intended role when the 1964 electrification scheme was scrapped. Today it cannot function properly because it is not only constrained by the insufficient size of the diesel fleet, but a restrictive single-line configuration with passing loops akin to a country branch rather than a London commuter line. This constraint is further compounded because no trains can run up from the south coast to Uckfield. So all commuter trains have to first travel down (virtually empty) to begin their journey back to London. Rather than usefully carry passengers to destinations in both directions, the train operator is subjected to empty stock running.
The Tunbridge Wells line could accommodate more trains and therefore more passengers with the implementation of Wealdenlink. No one is suggesting we attempt running the same number of trains from Uckfield as Haywards Heath, but there are clearly huge opportunities going to waste for want of political vision. Wealdenlink is not wildly over-ambitious, but only about implementing what BR itself had originally intended doing between 1958 and 1964. Now, even the DfT’s own Brighton Main Line Route Utilization Strategy notes that expansion is constrained by the south’s railways and says “the current capacity of the trains is acting as a deterrent for future growth”. At the same time, numerous consultants’ reports concluded even a decade ago that the various reinstatement of rail services along the Lewes-Tunbridge Wells-Oxted corridors would generate as many as 3,400 additional rail journeys per day. Until these short links are back, we cannot run more trains and make better use of the existing railway network.
“Without an increase in train capacity, it will not be possible for the Brighton Main Line to accommodate the predicted annual demands which growth will place upon it” ~ DfT BML RUS
The £3.5 billion expansion of the Thameslink network is due to start in 2008 and take seven years, allowing for a pause during the 2012 London Olympics. Throughout the next decade it is anticipated to bring benefits to the capital and the regions shown on the map. Network Rail will undertake major widening schemes at London Bridge and Blackfriars to increase capacity and reduce congestion at notorious pinch-points such as London’s Borough Market Junction. KING’S LYNN
Brighton is already on the Thameslink network, but as the map shows, it is intended to extend to destinations such as Dartford, Guildford, Ashford, East Grinstead, Horsham, Littlehampton and Eastbourne. The Sussex destinations and particularly those on the South Coast will impose considerable additional pressure on the Brighton Main Line and such aspirations may ultimately depend on the availability of train paths. This is thought to be the case with Littlehampton and Eastbourne services feeding through Haywards Heath. This map has therefore been amended to demonstrate how the incorporation of Wealdenlink into the Thameslink programme is a natural and obvious partnership. Instead of putting even more pressure on the Brighton Main Line south of Three Bridges, the blue line shows that by commissioning Wealdenlink within the next few years, it would enable Thameslink to reach Eastbourne by incorporating the growing corridor through East Sussex.
Of equal significance would be the opportunity to embrace the popular tourist centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Buckinghamshire
TUNBRIDGE WELLS EAST GRINSTEAD HORSHAM East Sussex
As well as greater flexibility, the possibilities to expand and improve the Thameslink network would be substantial, particularly in the off-peak periods which would be remunerative with destinations such as Tunbridge Wells. Consideration might also be given to operating to Newhaven with its daily ferry services to France. Because extra train paths on the Brighton Line will not be available and always at a premium, the value of Wealdenlink to provide this extra capacity can only increase with every year that passes. It is clear that Wealdenlink, incorporated into the early stages of the Thameslink Expansion Programme, would be able to deliver the greatest amount of the much-needed rail capacity between London and the South Coast.
WEALDENLINK - it’s all about capacity
THE UCKFIELD LINE ~ Runs 46 miles from London but stops short of the South Coast network. Incurs all the maintenance costs but without the benefit of more trains and thereby greater track access revenues. Each track carries only one train an hour during the day and weekends.
THE UCKFIELD LINE ~ A marvellous asset simply being wasted
Is limited to only 2 trains per track per peak hour, leaving the Brighton Line to take most of the strain. Stagnates through a want of imagination, development and investment.
WEALDENLINK will succeed because ~ Lewes-Uckfield was closed - not by Dr. Beeching or for any economic reason - but to make way for a road. Eridge-Tunbridge Wells closed to release land worth £4m and avoid a backlog of deferred maintenance. Both were intrinsic parts of a busy and profitable network - and now serve an area of even greater population. It is the best and only practical means of reducing over-capacity on the Brighton Main Line. It is not a local re-opening scheme, but a major opportunity for transforming rail travel in the South East. Overcrowding will not be solved by increasing the train fleet without expanding parts of the network. It has the potential to significantly enhance the Thameslink Expansion Programme. There exists an increasingly urgent need to enable more rail travel and discourage the continual rise in car usage. In the political race for ‘green solutions’ its rewards are obvious, substantial and long-overdue.
“If either the Uckfield-Lewes and / or Eridge-Tunbridge Wells sections were re-opened this would obviously strengthen rather than weaken the Hurst Green-Uckfield service. Railways thrive on volume.” Chris Green, Managing Director, Network SouthEast “I see the route as a major opportunity towards delivering a fit for purpose network for the future.” Toby de Burgh, Assistant Director, Strategic Rail Authority “I do recognise the potential benefit of creating an additional through route from London to the South East Coast and I hope that we have demonstrated that we are considering the matter seriously.” Mike Grant, Chief Executive, Strategic Rail Authority “There is a growing awareness that only seven miles of closed trackbed separate Uckfield from Lewes and access to the Brighton conurbation. This is an area where latent potential is going to waste for want of imaginative development of existing resources.” Rail Passengers Council “Where the distance to be breached is shortest, the frustration is greatest. Where significant demand for a return of rail services can be shown, it is these cases which must first be successfully pitted against the might of Government intransigence.” Today’s Railways UK (March 2008)
Produced for WEALDENLINK by Brian Hart. Thanks to Southern and Southeastern for permission to photograph on their property and to Rail Professional, Simon Weir and Nick Catford for enabling us to use their images.
Published by WEALDENLINK - PO Box 645 - UCKFIELD TN22 5BZ
Published on Mar 14, 2008