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Railwatch 084 - June 2000

Mission possible: Mend the gap

The Strategic Rail Authority is being urged to seize the opportunity offered by refranchising to create a new main line from London to the Sussex coast by reopening the Uckfield-Lewes line.

The Wealden Line Campaign has been bombarding the SRA with appeals not to let Connex's offer to rebuild the line fall by the wayside. It points out that the proposal will create two new 100mph rail clearways, to Victoria via Oxted and Croydon and to London Bridge via Tunbridge Wells.

Of course it will also free space on the London-Gatwick-Brighton main line to allow extra services and a much-needed speed-up. It can be viewed as a Gatwick rail bypass. Yet the SRA has indicated it is not interested in including the proposal in the refranchising process, under the pretext that the costs and benefits have not been properly examined.

Wealden Line campaign director Brian Hart says this is untrue. East Sussex County Council has already carried out a full feasibility study. "This golden opportunity seems about to be thrown away," said Mr Hart.

"More than enough work has been carried out by the county council and Mott MacDonald on feasibility studies, engineering surveys, cost-benefit analyses, usage forecasts, new passenger demand, non-user benefit, environmental impact assessments and so on. No possible good can come from any further delay and procrastination.

"The scheme is vital to the economic and environmental health of south east England."

Dr Hart added: "People stop me in the street and despairingly ask me: 'What do we have to do?' and I can no longer answer them. >How many reports, investigations and studies must we complete before someone has the guts to get on with the job? Let's have some action!"

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