Uckfield business case

Lewes_1020612.JPG The Network Rail Lewes-Uckfield Railway Line Reinstatement Study 2008 showed that reinstatement of the line is technically feasible, but failed to establish a positive business case. This was because the potential stakeholders were not all aligned, actively supporting and promoting the proposal; and because the terms of reference were defined too narrowly, so that the study could not look at all the possible solutions to determine which would be most viable and can be funded soonest.

Since 2008 circumstances have changed. There are a number of opportunities to improve the business case by reducing costs, by increasing developer contributions, and by capturing these key benefits:
  • supporting the regeneration of Newhaven
  • partially relieving BML1 peak capacity at Lewes
  • providing access from the Weald to the South Coast towns
without requiring additional network capacity at East Croydon or at London termini. A report by independent consultant Keith Buchan of MTRU showed that the business case could be around three times better than the NR study.

Challenges to 2008 study assumptions
  • Growth assumptions used in the business case model to determine future year demand do not match the traffic growth seen on the Uckfield line since, or account for the recent fuel price trends which are driving rail growth
  • New census data will show increased population and therefore demand
  • Inflation rates since 2008 for fares and rail costs are different, both from each other and from the business case assumptions
  • Relevance of 2001 LATS data
  • When comparing other stations to determine expected traffic, Haywards Heath was discounted due to high trip levels – but is this valid, given that it was driven by railheading as a result of poorer services on Uckfield line previously
  • An assumption of 10 minutes saving per journey has been made in the model – whilst this may be reasonable for Uckfield to Lewes journeys, the saving for longer journeys eg Crowborough to Lewes (or Brighton) will be greater
  • The model assumed that fare levels would be equalised between the BML and Uckfield routes – whilst this would be true for through Lewes – East Croydon or longer journeys, levels for intermediate journeys should be set to maximise total revenue (not fares)
  • In the 2008 response to comments, the example of Airdrie – Bathgate is given as a comparison of reinstatement cost/mile – but that is double track
  • Webtag underestimates the benefits from getting people out of cars and onto trains
  • Webtag rules have changed - eg loss of VAT/fuel duty was included in 2008 study as negative benefit?
  • Assumption of 10 minute passing time at Uckfield for timetabling was only necessary because the study does not include provision for a dynamic loop at Uckfield or extension of existing loops.
Benefit opportunities
  • Increased speed and 2tph service (one fast, one stopping)
    • Increased traffic from intermediate stations north and south
    • Comparable times Lewes – London, so transfer of through passengers greater than assumed in model which was based on current timings
  • Diversion of existing Eastbourne/Seaford - London services via Uckfield rather than Uckfield line services being additional
    • 10 car trains already covered by HLOS, so no extra costs to lengthen trains
    • the 2019 forecast for peak journeys to London from the Uckfield line is 457 per train, when compared to a seated capacity of 674 for a 10-car train, gives 1302 available seats in the 3-hour peak for journeys from Lewes to London via Uckfield
    • this allows additional peak capacity on West Coastway – London route, releasing suppressed demand, which would provide additional revenue to the railway to be taken as a benefit of this proposal
    • Given that the suppressed demand on the West Coastway route would take up this extra capacity on the BML, the sensitivity analysis in the report indicates that the extra 2600 journeys generated per day over the modelled expectation of 1500/day would be sufficient to achieve a BCR of over 2.0
  • Newhaven regeneration benefits
  • Increased connectivity supports increasing employment in Brighton
  • Benefit of diversionary route greater due to longer trains being available
  • Developer contributions would increase the BCR
Cost saving opportunities
  • Lewes turnback included at £6m no longer required
  • Cost of Uckfield bridge could be covered as part of Uckfield traffic improvement scheme
  • Possibility of using existing Uckfield station, with dynamic loop outside station
  • Cost of Uckfield station could be covered as part of Uckfield transport hub scheme, with footbridge access across river to island platform to minimise cost
  • Narrower land take – 8.5 metres, not the 15 metres assumed
  • Get ESCC/RSSB agreement to close roads and use level crossings on minor roads
  • Reduce bridge replacement costs by not building to 25 ton axle limit for freight
  • Get ESCC agreement to close/divert footpaths to reduce footbridge costs
  • Estimates inflated by layers of consulting and outsourcing (ref Ford, Modern Railways)
Additional costs
  • 2 or 3 extra diesel trains required (but no change to electric stock)
  • Dynamic loop required at Uckfield, not static as assumed in 2008 study, and possibly longer loops elsewhere
  • Increased operating costs to extend trains to Newhaven (or Eastbourne or Seaford)
  • Possible cost of upgrading north of Uckfield to increase line speed
  • Possible additional stations at Barcombe Mills/Isfield to capture benefits of social inclusion

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

New approach to Uckfield | Success through incremental development | Need for Uckfield-Lewes | Solution for Uckfield-Lewes | Uckfield-Lewes campaign plan | Background to the Uckfield Lewes campaign