Commuter column - It’s looking like a serious underestimation

London to Brighton line just north of the Balcombe viaduct
London to Brighton line just north of the Balcombe viaduct

A 30 per cent increase in demand by 2020 from rail and air passengers using the Brighton Line looks increasingly like a serious underestimation.

A month ago, the Office of Rail Regulation reported a 5.4 per cent increase in passenger journeys on London and South East services during April-June, whilst the number of passengers travelling ‘in excess of capacity’ has risen by 3.2 per cent.

The DfT admits there are many problems with this franchise – capacity issues and the two-track only Brighton to Three Bridges section and during emergencies the absence of an efficient and effective diversionary route.

So, what needs to be done? We believe political short-termism is seriously harming the railway.

Until far-sighted schemes are in place, the refranchising process risks being a wasteful, irrelevant and unpopular label-changing exercise.

Lack of capacity and the need to tackle constraints and bottlenecks with solutions which work are challenges for the Government and rail industry.

As congestion rises, demand outstrips capacity. Whilst Gatwick insists on improved links and commuters are forced to stand, the case for a Brighton Mainline 2 strengthens.

Using Network Rail’s own figures, £315m would give Sussex a new electrified main line from Brighton through Uckfield to London, although Network Rail and DfT increments would raise this to £650m.

The Reading station upgrade is costing £895m and the Birmingham Gateway station redevelopment £600m.

Brighton Main Line 2 is one recession-busting major infrastructure project that the Government cannot ignore any longer and could so easily begin.

Brian Hart Project Manager for BML2 campaign