Network Rail to investigate reopening the Uckfield to Lewes rail line

Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin made the announcement during a visit to Lewes on Thursday

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A study into the viability of reopening the Uckfield to Lewes rail line in East Sussex has been commissioned.

The announcement, by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, is part of efforts to increase rail capacity between London and the south coast.

The nine mile section was closed in 1969 because of increased road building.

A 2008 Network Rail study concluded although technically feasible, there was no economic case for rebuilding it.

The government's rail investment strategy requires additional rail capacity between Uckfield and London Bridge by 2019.

'Not popping champagne'

The new investigation will be carried out by Network Rail.

Wealden Line campaign director Brian Hart, who is also project manager of the Brighton Main Line 2 Project, said campaigners "were certainly not popping champagne corks at the moment".

Disused track between Uckfield and Lewes The disused track between Uckfield and Lewes is overgrown

He said: "There needs to be a thorough review of capacity between the Sussex coast and London and quite honestly, if they're just going to look at reopening the Lewes to Uckfield line, well they really needn't bother.

"Because we know there's no business case for it because Network Rail made this quite plain in 2008 and we agree with a lot of the conclusions they came up with.

"The real problem is that there is no direct link between the Uckfield line and Brighton as there was in 1969 because the line was severed through the centre of Lewes and that line cannot be reinstated."

'Break-point'

He said the study needed to look at building a new tunnel through the South Downs.

Liberal Democrat Lewes MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "It's so important because the capacity between London and the south coast is pretty much at break-point.

"We've got patch numbers rising relentlessly four or five percent every year, expected to double within 30 years and there's no space for these passengers.

"We need more capacity between London and the south coast and I happen to think that reopening the Lewes to Uckfield line is the way to get that capacity."

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