A 50 year struggle to re-open the Lewes to Uckfield Railway Line has taken a significant step forward, following a submission to the Restore Your Railway fund earlier this year.
If completed, the scheme would allow passengers from Crowborough to travel to Brighton, Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells by train.
The Department for Transport invited MPs, local councils and community groups to propose how they could reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations.
Lewes MP Maria Caulfield and the Brighton Main Line 2 campaign submitted a business case in March setting-out costs, the level of support locally, and the potential growth that could come from reopened lines.
Although the Uckfield – Lewes line proposal was not among the ten receiving funding in the first round of the Ideas Fund. The Minister has written to Maria Caulfield and her fellow MPs to ask for the bid to be developed further to understand the best route forward.
Encouragingly, the Transport Minister has told BML2:
We are ready to work with you on how best to take this project to the next stage and invite you to discuss the next steps with officials.
Campaigners say that around £800m the scheme is well within the £48 billion the Government have made available for investment in the railways.
The Sussex phase requires reopening the seven-mile ‘missing link’ between Uckfield & Lewes and the construction of a tunnel beneath the South Downs to enable direct trains into Brighton.
The Kent phase would see the re-instatement of rail services to Tunbridge Wells (and onward to Tonbridge and London) via route used by the Spa Valley Railway and using the Grove Tunnel under the southern edge of the spa town.
The closure of the Uckfield to Lewes line was not a ‘Beeching cut’ as most people assume. In fact it was to do with the Lewes Relief Road and the construction of Phoenix Causeway bridge.
In a further dramatic development, Network Rail has announced proposals to relocate East Croydon station to create two more platforms and enable greater capacity. This notorious bottleneck has hindered returning the Uckfield branch to its main line status.
You can have your say on the proposals here Unblocking the Croydon bottleneck – Network Rail.