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Brighton rail expansion plans: 'No chance' says Lewes MP and transport minister
A railway expansion plan to ease train congestion has “no chance” of ever happening, according to a transport minister.
Hundreds of people have backed the Brighton Mainline Two (BML2) proposal, which would see a one and a half mile tunnel built under the South Downs in Ashcombe, near Lewes, to prevent overcrowding on services to and from London.
They believe linking it to the former Lewes to Uckfield line, which was closed in the 1960s, would give trains another route from Brighton Station to the capital.
However, transport minister Norman Baker, who is also MP for Lewes, said that while the current system was “unsustainable”, he thought the tunnel plan had “no chance”. It was “very, very expensive” and “very controversial”.
Mr Baker added that he believed a direct line from Seaford to London would help solve some capacity issues in the medium term.
But campaigners have criticised his comments, claiming Mr Baker is putting his constituency before the interests of the wider population.
Mr Baker said: “I want to reopen the Lewes-Uckfield line. But my view in the medium term is that we need to have an alternative line from the Sussex coast to London because the capacity issues are such that you can only get so many trains on the Brighton mainline, even with new signalling and everything else.
“If you had a line which went from Seaford to Uckfield, to East Croydon and to London that way, that would provide extra capacity.
“The last thing we want is a controversial line. We want to get public support united for reopening Lewes-Uckfield, which is what we have got by and large.
“People are very supportive of that concept and the matter of increasing the cost and increasing the controversy isn’t the way to get this line reopened.”
BML2 campaign chairman Duncan Bennett, who is a councillor in Uckfield, said: “Brighton and Hove is the south coast’s premier destination and for many thousands of people it is an exciting, vibrant place to live, work and visit.
“Fast new rail connections as well as a direct relief line are needed – not forcing commuters and day trippers to change trains at Lewes.
“In this instance Mr Baker needs to be more the minister than the MP.”
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