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Uckfield Lewes

Uckfield station is currently at the end of a non-electrified branch and is one of the few such lines in the south east. Railfuture hopes that the reopening of the Uckfield-Lewes line will see it the whole route electrified Railfuture is campaigning for reinstatement of the rail link between Uckfield and Lewes to provide quicker and more convenient access between the Weald and the employment centre of Brighton, and an additional route between the Sussex Coast and London to relieve the Brighton Main Line especially during disruption.

We are also advocating electrification of the Uckfield line to improve reliability and accelerate services. This has now become a recommendation of the Gibb report. View our leaflet and read our article Southern could be buzzin'.

New approach to Uckfield

On 2 March 2017 the government published the long-awaited London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study report. News headlines portrayed this as the death knell of a second main line to London, but in fact the study points the way forward for reopening between Uckfield and Lewes, and a new route between Stratford and East Croydon via Docklands. Whilst the study found that there was not a transport need to reopen Lewes - Uckfield, it recognised that it might be justified on the basis of economic growth. The study recommended that a new approach is required, starting with the LEP and local authorities commissioning a review of potential growth scenarios.

The Transport Secretary also encouraged the promoters of London and Southern Counties Railways, a privately-funded consortium, to develop proposals for a new route linking Stratford, Docklands, and East Croydon with the Sussex Coast. Railfuture supported this initiative which is similar to our Thameslink 2 concept and which may offer an additional route between London and Brighton.

Therefore there are two possible ways forward:
  1. a new approach to a incremental solution, justified by a review of economic growth scenarios led by the LEP and local authorities
  2. a commercially funded never-never approach delivering a double track electrified main line
Irrespective of who takes the lead, the LEPs and local authorities are key to the process as they that must agree the economic development and housing plans that will underpin the growth scenarios and so the business case for services on the Tunbridge Wells – Uckfield – Lewes – Brighton axis. Railfuture will continue to work to bring together the promoters and stakeholders to achieve a successful outcome.

Bridge the gap: connect Sussex

Travelling across or around Sussex isn't quick or easy. Roads are congested, bus services are slow and finish early, and rail routes do not all link up.
  • Wealden residents can only get work or education in Lewes or Brighton by congested roads and bus services
  • Newhaven needs regeneration but has only two through trains to London
  • The major employment and tourist centre of Brighton is dependent on a single over-utilised rail line from London
  • Trains from Eastbourne, Lewes, Worthing, Hove and Brighton to London are overcrowded
  • Uckfield Line commuter services take 20 minutes longer than equivalent journeys on the Brighton Main Line
  • Journey times between Hastings, Brighton and Worthing are too long
The Department for Transport published the Network Rail report on the Brighton Main Line, capacity challenges and options for improvements. The DfT agreed with the recommendation that Lewes-Uckfield re-instatement could make a longer term contribution to capacity on the Sussex Route, after the constraints of flat line junctions and fast line platforms between Stoats Nest Junction (south of Purley) and London have been addressed in Control Period 6 (2019-24). Similarly the Network Rail Sussex Area Route Study recommended safeguarding of the Uckfield - Lewes route; the Railfuture response to Sussex Area Route Study consultation argued for the benefits of access from the Weald to Brighton, in addition to Sussex Route capacity and resilience. Reopening is a question of when, not if.

Key benefits

An additional through route between the Sussex coast and London will deliver the following benefits:
  • direct train services between Kent, Surrey, the Weald, Lewes, and Brighton for education and jobs
  • direct trains between London and Newhaven, supporting regeneration
  • visitors will still be able to reach Brighton when the Brighton Main Line is closed, maintaining the visitor economy
  • additional trains from Brighton, Falmer, Eastbourne and Lewes to London, relieving the Brighton Main Line
  • connectivity between the Weald and Gatwick
  • faster more reliable services between the Weald and London
  • reduced traffic congestion around Lewes and Brighton.

Amassing the evidence

Railfuture put its money where its mouth is by engaging independent advisor Jonathan Roberts Consulting to assess the evidence of economic and transport needs in Sussex. Key points are that Brighton is the largest employment centre in the South East outside London, the Weald has a very high daily outflow of people for work, Tunbridge Wells is a key destination, and Hastings has a high level of unemployment. The recommendations to promote economic growth in East Sussex are:
  • Uckfield-Lewes reopening to achieve affordable and effective journey times between the Weald, the Sussex Coast and Brighton
  • Faster travel and extra capacity between the Sussex Coast and Gatwick, Croydon and London
  • Electrification and other infrastructure which expands services and connections, reducing journey times - by through trains not changes
  • Electrification of Marshlink and provision of Javelin services via Ashford to achieve acceptable London-Hastings journey times
  • Investment in a direct Coastway connection between Polegate and Pevensey to reduce journey times to attractive levels along the main coastal corridor, between Brighton, the Sussex Coast and East Kent
  • Coastway Metro service linking Eastbourne and Hastings, with more stations.
The 80-page "Access and Connections: East Sussex" report by JRC (view or download) was a significant input to the East Sussex Rail Strategy and Action Plan, the WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study report, and the London & Southern Counties Railways initiative.

Partnership

Successful rail reopenings have been promoted by a partnership of key stakeholders, including local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, and the rail industry. This is essential to long term success and allows access to new local sources of transport funding. We are working to build a consensus amongst potential promoters and stakeholders that reopening Tunbridge Wells West-Uckfield-Lewes-Brighton is justified, credible and deliverable, and so inspire them to support and actively promote this realistic, evidence-based approach and ensure that a viable scope for re-opening is agreed.

East Sussex County Council has made electrifying and redoubling the Uckfield line and Marshlink its top priorities in the final version of its Rail Strategy and Action Plan.

Whilst the London and South Coast Rail Corridor Study study focused on the transport investment case, a complementary economic (jobs and housing) investment case must be developed by the local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Find out more!

Our current campaign leaflet Bridge the gap: two complementary projects can be viewed or downloaded.

Twitter Follow us on Twitter @Uckfield_Lewes.

If you support the Railfuture campaign, wish to keep up-to-date with our activities, and find out more about how YOU can play your part, please join us at Sussex and Coastway, and:

Register your support for electrification and reopening Uckfield - Lewes here!



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