The Anonymous Widower

Britain’s Longest Road Tunnel Could Be Built Along A27

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Argus.

These three paragraphs outline the scheme.

The longest road tunnel in the UK could be built as a long-term solution to congestion along the A27.

The tunnel, which would cost around £2 billion, has been touted as a way of addressing traffic and a way to improve local quality of life.

A new report by Transport for the South East (TfSE) said investing in such schemes is the only way carbon emissions from congested road traffic can be seriously tackled and improve.

The article also states, that the project is unlikely to be started before 2050.

These are my thoughts.

Where Will The Tunnel Be Built?

This Google Map shows Worthing.


  1. The A27 road runs roughly across the top of the map.
  2. The A27 has sections of dual-carriageway.
  3. There are two roundabouts, where the A27 connects with the A24 road between London and Worthing via Sutton, Dorking and Horsham.
  4. The West Coastway Line runs across the middle of the map.
  5. Four of the five stations in Worthing are visible.
  6. From East to West the stations are East Worthing, Worthing, West Worthing and Durrington-on-Sea, with Goring-by-Sea off the map to the West.

This Google Map shows the section of the A27 to the West of the A24.


  1. The A27 goes all the way across the map.
  2. There is a large junction with the A280 at the Western edge of the map.
  3. There is a large roundabout at the junction with the A24, at the Eastern edge of the map.
  4. The Western half of the A27 between the two junctions, appears to be dual-carriageway.
  5. The A27 continues in the West as a dual-carriageway between the junction with the A280, almost as far as Arundel.

I suspect the Western portal of the tunnel would be close to the junction with the A280 and for much of the route, it could be bored under the A27 to minimise noise and vibration for those living along the route.

This third Google Map shows the section of the A27 to the East of the A24.


  1. The A27 goes all the way across the map.
  2. It shares a route with the A24 between the two roundabouts towards the West of the map.
  3. The Eastern section of the A27 appears to be dual-carriageway.
  4. T27 continues in the East to the North of Shoreham and Brighton and the South of Lewes.

I suspect the Eastern portal of the tunnel would be close to the Western end of the dual-carriageway section to Lewes and for much of the route, it could be bored under the A27 and A24 to minimise noise and vibration for those living along the route.

As we’re good at tunneling in the UK, I don’t think this will be a difficult tunnel to bore.

What Should We Do In The Interim?

The article in the Argus says this.

Should the plans go ahead, the tunnel could be ready for construction by 2050, with a range of other measures proposed to cut congestion in the short term.

2050 is a long time to wait.

I haven’t driven in the area much in the last twenty years, as even before I didn’t drive, I’ve tended to take the train to places like Brighton, Eastbourne, Portsmouth and Southampton.

In my experience the East and West Coastway Lines along the South Coast have reasons, why people drive for preference.

  • The trains are not frequent enough. There should be four trains per hour (tph) if possible.
  • There needs to be more direct train services to London and Gatwick Airport.
  • Some of the stations are not very passenger-friendly. More step-free access is needed.
  • Some of the stations can’t handle twelve-car trains.
  • The Class 313 trains, that are used to the West of Brighton, were built in the 1970s. Similar trains of that period in the rest of the UK, have either been replaced or will soon be.
  • Is there enough car parking?
  • Could some closed stations be reopened?
  • Could Park-and-Ride facilities be built, where the A27 crosses the railway?
  • Would it help, if the West and East Coastway Lines didn’t need a change at Brighton?
  • Would a high speed service between Eastbourne and London via Hastings and High Speed One attract leisure passengers.

An improved railway might reduce traffic on the A27.

Perhaps the easiest improvement would be to replace all the East and West Coastway fleet with new or refurbished trains with the following specification.

  • 100 mph operation.
  • High-class well-designed interior matched to the passenger mix.
  • Ability to handle the Marshlink Line and other sections without electrification.
  • Wi-fi and power sockets.
  • A refreshment trolley might be a good idea.

A marketing campaign might help.

September 20, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

£250m Bypass Will Destroy Woodland

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

A four-mile bypass will be built partly in the South Downs National Park under a plan that conservation groups fear will set a precedent for development in other protected areas.

This map shows the route of the proposed bypass.

The route may be the best solution, but I believe we need to be more radical.

Overcrowded and inadequate roads exist all along the South Coast of England and in many other scenic places in the UK.

I think we need to develop a philosophy to solve the problems of roads in these crowded places.

Building a four-mile bypass at Arundel, may be needed, but we should do many other things to ease traffic congestion and improve transport capacity.

So what do I believe we should do?

We could introduce negative measures like road pricing or other restrictions, but I believe there are positive things we could do.


You might think, what has broadband got to do with reducing the need to build roads.

I believe that as more houses and businesses get very high speed broadband, this will reduce the number of journeys taken.

Mobile Phone Coverage

I am not sure, what effect excellent mobile phone coverage will have on traffic, but it certainly will have one.


We will all be cycling more and one of the consequences of excellent mobile phone coverage will be the growth of park-it-anywhere bike schemes like ofo and Mobike.

I think a few years time, many short distance journeys will be done by bicycle.

But expect some Luddite councils to legislate against ofo, Mobike and their ilk!


Fast forward five years and a train journey in an area like along the South Coast or in East Anglia or the West Country, will be very different.

  • Digital signalling will increase the capacity of all lines and mean that most stations will have at least four trains per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • Digital signalling will also allow more routes.
  • Advances in train design will mean that journeys are faster.
  • Ticketing will use contactless bank cards or mobile phone payment systems.
  • Trains will be a much more comfortable and work-friendly experience, with wi-fi, 4G and power sockets.
  • Track layouts will be improved and level crossings will be removed., to allow trains to operate more efficiently.
  • Improved information on trains and stations.
  • The improved dwell times of modern trains, will allow new stations to be added without degrading services.

The biggest development along the South Coast, will be an improved service between Ashford and Portsmouth/Southampton/Bournemouth.

  • Existing tracks will be used, with the addition of short stretches of new track at possibly Brighton and Eastbourne.
  • Line speeds will be at least 100 mph.
  • Most stations will have a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph service.

There will also be other improved routes to and from London and Gatwick Airport for many of the coastal towns.

This improvement in rail services will be impossible with a rail company like Govia Thameslink Railway providing services.

  • They are more conservative, than the RMT.
  • They look after their core commuter traffic, at the expense of other passengers.
  • The franchise is just too big.

However, digital signalling will allow Open Access Operators to compete and create new services geared to customers needs.


The current Thameslink service will have the following characteristics, when it is completed in December 2019.

  • Twenty-four tph through London.
  • A well-designed track layout at Bermondsey that unlocks London’s North-South railway.
  • Services at a level of at least two tph to many stations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
  • A set of uncomfortable Class 700 trains, designed by a moronic civil servant in the Department of Transport.

The major Thameslink upgrade was designed totally without vision and charisma.

However, the basics and possibilities are there to do the following.

  • Increase the frequency to thirty tph through the Central London core.
  • Increase the frequency on the Brighton Main Line through Gatwick, substantially, by using digital signalling.
  • Rebuild the trains, with what passengers need.
  • Add extra services all along the South Coast.
  • Develop a massive rail-air interchange station at Gatwick.

I believe that Gatwick could develop into the busiest station in the UK.

I also think, that anybody going between London and the South Coast, will have a frequency of at least four tph from their local station, using either a direct service or a single change at Gatwick.


This Google Map shows the A27 through Arundel.

Note the number of trucks on the roads.

Where are they going?

The bypass would get the trucks out of Arundel, but would it just encourage more to use the South Coast route as a bypass for the crowded M25?

We need a proper philosophy for freight in this country.

  • As much freight as possible should be by rail.
  • Trucks should be for short distance or specialist needs only.

Does Southampton Docks have good enough access to the UK rail network?

I think not, especially as it would be very difficult to increase freight traffic through Southampton Central station, due to the restriction of the double-track Southampton Tunnel.


There is a lot to do, before we spend £250million n a bypass.




May 14, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Improving The Hastings Line

In The Lewes Horeseshoe, I discussed how an idea from Railfuture might be used to improve services between London and the South Coast.

I came to the conclusion, that if various improvements were carried out, including the running of trains with Class 395 performance from Ashford to Brighton along the East Coastway Line, that this would present an opportunity to close and rebuild the Hastings Line.

The Hastings Line is only thirty-two miles long from the South Eastern Main Line to Hastings, but there are deficiencies in the tunnels, which led to four of the eight tunnels being made single-track, when the line was electrified in 1986.

Surely, the fact that the line is constantly switching from double to single track, is one of the reasons, that the line only has a pathetic one semi-fast and one stopping train per hour between London and Hastings.

But things have moved on since 1986!

Network Rail must have learned a lot of tricks with tunnels. In particular, all the lessons learned in the re-boring of Farnworth Tunnel will be invaluable.

The length of the line is also such, that services could be run using IPEMU trains, charging the on-board storage on the South Eastern Main Line and between Battle and  Hastings stations.

Would running some parts of the Hastings Line without power, mean that it could be simplified by the partial removal of electrification?

I estimate that around twenty-five miles would be without electrification, which would be an easy gap to bridge for an IPEMU.

Would this simplification in the various single-track tunnels, coupled with modern tunnelling techniques, allow Network Rail to create a fully double-tracked route from the South Eastern Main Line along the full length of the Hastings Line to Hastings?

If four trains per hour could be run between London and Hastings, that would be a tremendous improvement. At the London end of the route, the Thameslink Programme should create extra capacity for trains into Charing Cross station.

In addition, it would appear that the line is already capable of handling ten-car trains. Could this be stretched to twelve?

I am certain, that in the light of developments in the last few years, that Network Rail are looking at ways of increasing the capacity on the Hastings Line.

They’re also probably looking to do other engineering work, as there was a major landslip on the line a couple of years ago.

But in truth nothing can be done, until alternative routes are provided via Ashford and/or Brighton, as the tunnel work would probably mean that the Hastings Line would need to be closed, whilst some of the work is performed.

Unless a sensible alternative is provided, I’m sure Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells will be penning another letter to the Telegraph.


February 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lewes Horeshoe

A friend pointed me at the Lewes Horeshoe, which is described on this page of the Railfuture web site. They say this.

Events last year at Dawlish have shown the need for alternative routes to provide network resilience. A simple loop at Lewes, following the A27 Lewes bypass and the Cockshut, could be completed in Control Period 6 (or sooner) to provide an alternative route between Brighton and Haywards Heath without reversing, which would have enabled a service to be maintained when Patcham Tunnel was flooded recently, and would enable direct services between Falmer and London. It would also avoid reversing of the Lewes – Brighton shuttle service at Lewes, which might improve stock utilisation, and would facilitate services via a reopened Uckfield – Lewes line to Brighton. The radius of curvature is similar to that of the new curve on the East London Line Extension at Shoreditch, which operates without disturbing local residents.

They also show this map of the horseshoe.

Railfuture's Lewes Horeshoe

Railfuture’s Lewes Horeshoe

This is a Google Map of the area.

Lewes Horseshoe

Lewes Horseshoe

And for completeness, this is a Google Map of the East London Line at Shoreditch.

Shoreditch Curve

Shoreditch Curve

Knowing the East London Line well, I don’t think that the curve at Shoreditch is particularly tight and certainly thousands of up to five car trains have gone round the curve in safety without annoying too many of the residents. But are there that many residents?

So what do I think of the idea of the Lewes Horeshoe?

I believe that smaller rail projects like the Hitchin Flyover, Ipswich Chord, Ordsall Chord and Todmorden Curve, may not seem to offer high value before they are proposed, but once they are created, rail companies and politicians find innovative ways to use them.

I don’t know Lewes station well, but I always seem to spend some time there waiting for trains, when I visit.And would thus say that the area needs a bit of sorting out.

Now that the Uckfield Branch of the Oxted Line has been improved, as I wrote about in Future-Proofing The Uckfield Branch, I think that there could be moves to reinstate the Wealden Line and improve Seaford Branch services to Newhaven and Seaford.

Obviously, if there is any work at Lewes to sort out the services, all proposals should be examined.

There is also all of the proposals for a Second Brighton Main Line. I think that this project is so large, that I don’t think those using the trains between London and Sussex could put up with another project the size of Thameslink in the near future.

I also think, that several smaller projects along the current routes between London and Sussex should be sorted first.

  • Improved longer and more frequent electric services from London to Uckfield.
  • Improved longer and more frequent electric services along the West Coastway and East Coastway Lines.
  • Improved links between Southeastern Highspeed services  and Crossrail at Stratford International.
  • The development of East Sussex services, so passengers can use Southeastern Highspeed services into Stratford and St. Pancras.
  • The completion of the new interchange station at Gatwick Airport to improve connectivity.
  • The sorting of the interchange between Thameslink and the East London Line.
  • Improved services on the Hastings Line.
  • A New one million pound car park has been built at Uckfield. Expect to see more!
  • Improved layouts and extra tracks on the current Brighton Main Line.

I think that we’ll see some truly radical ideas and services implemented between London and Sussex, taking advantage of some of the new technology that is currently being developed.

For instance, if the East Coastway Line and the related Marshlink Line were to be improved, I feel that a limited stop Class 395 train could run from Stratford International to Brighton in under two hours.

I also believe that if the order of the projects is organised in an optimal order after Thameslink is completed through Gatwick to Brighton, that the important capacity between London and the South Coast can be maintained. This could be one possible order.

  • Finish Thameslink, Gatwick Airport station and some Brighton Main Line improvements.
  • Run twelve-car services between London and Uckfield.
  • Improve the East Coastway and Marshlink Lines, so that trains with Class 395 performance can run between Brighton and Ashford.
  • Add some more parking.

Finally, the bullet must be bitten and the Hastings Line can be closed and rebuilt, so that four trains per hour can be run between London and Hastings.

I discuss this in Improving The Hastings Line.


February 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Future-Proofing The Uckfield Branch

The Uckfield Branch of the Oxted Line was open today, so as in A Trip To Uckfield, I had to use a Rail Replacement Bus from Crowborough, I took a train to Uckfield station and back from London Bridge. These are some of the pictures I took at Uckfield station.

I can’t disagree with what I said in the previous post.

The platform work is certainly being done to a standard and length, that should be good enough, if the Uckfield Branch is used to create a second Brighton Main Line, by extending the line past Uckfield to Lewes on the route of the former Wealden Line.

All of the platforms I have seen on the Oxted Branch seem to be capable of taking a twelve-car train.

Uckfield’s Long Single Platform

Although, I suspect that Uckfield itself could be a bit longer, especially as workers still seemed to be extending it further to the North.

I would think, that this long platform would enable two eight-car trains to be parked in the station, if there was a need in the Peak or because one of the trains had failed.

It’s just more future-proofing.

Oxted’s Bay Platform

Platform 3 at Oxted station is a South-facing bay platform, which is used to provide shuttle and other services down the two branches. In the last couple of years, it has been electrified, which is just more future-proofing, in case it was required to run an electrified shuttle to East Grinstead.

IPEMUs To Uckfield?

The Oxted Line is electrified from London Bridge as far as Hurst Green station, where the two branches split.

  • The East Grinstead Branch is electrified.
  • Uckfield Branch is not and is about twenty miles long.

As a typical Electrostar IPEMU based on say a Class 387 train, would probably have a range of at least fifty to sixty miles, it would appear that IPEMUs could work the London Bridge or Victoria to Uckfield service.

  • Between London Bridge and Hurst Green the trains would take thirty-two minutes, getting power from the third-rail electrification. Batteries would also be charged on this leg.
  • Between Hurst Green and Uckfield, they would take forty-two minutes and rely on battery power.

I suspect too, that third-rail IPEMUs could charge their batteries fully before they left London Bridge.

Platform 3 at Oxted station might also be useful for charging an IPEMU running a shuttle service on the Uckfield Branch.

In my view, the work done on the Uckfield Branch in recent months has created a line, that would be an ideal route for IPEMUs to provide the service.

  • Platforms have been sufficiently lengthened.
  • Signalling can probably already cope with the longer trains.
  • There is no more electrification required.

All that is needed is to add an IPEMU-capability to the required number of Class 387 trains and train the staff.

How Long Is An IPEMU?

There is one mathematical and marketing problem, that must be solved before trains are run.

Class 387 trains come in sets of four-cars and on Thameslink, typically run in formations of four-, eight- or twelve-cars.

What is the optimal length to run services on the Uckfield Branch, as determined by passenger demand?

And can this length of train be provided?

I’ve not seen anything for instance, which says how many IPEMUs can form a single train.

But I suspect that Bombardier wouldn’t design a train, without a multiple-working capability.

And of course, the Uckfield Branch has been future-proofed for twelve cars.

I suspect that the capacity of the Uckfield Line will be determined more, by the size of the car parks.

Onward To Lewes

This article in the Uckfield News is entitled £100k Budget pledge for Uckfield to Lewes rail line study.

So it is possible that the Uckfield Branch could be extended by about ten miles to Lewes, along the route of the disused Wealden Line.

Intriguingly, as Lewes is fully electrified an IPEMU train going from London Bridge to Lewes would do less distance on batteries than a train going from London Bridge to Uckfield and back.

One of the problems with extending past Uckfield, is that the trains would have to cross the B2102 by the station in the middle of Uckfield.

This used to be a level crossing and I’m certain, that this option will not be reinstated for safety reasons. It has to be said, that as an IPEMU could cross on battery power, there might be a better solution, than a traditional level crossing.

But IPEMUs have another advantage, in that they could use a short underpass without electrification. I just wonder whether that some clever design could squeeze the railway line under the road.


If the passenger demand is there, there would appear nothing in the design of the upgrade to the Uckfield Line, to stop IPEMUs being used to fulfil that demand.



February 22, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Will Southern Create A South Coast Express Using IPEMUs?

This post is pure speculation on my part,which I’ve written to illustrate the capabilities of an IPEMU.

What is an IPEMU?

Many rail passengers in the UK, have ridden in one of Bombardier’s fairly ubiquitous Electrostar trains. Here’s a short list of some of the types and the services they run.

A Class 379 was used to create the IPEMU or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit and a year ago, I rode this train in public service between Manningtree and Harwich.

A battery pack had been added to the four-car train, which was charged up, when the train is running on an electrified line; third rail or overhead and the energy can then be used to propel the train on a line without electrification.

I was told by the engineer sitting opposite me,monitoring train performance on a laptop, that this Class 379 IPEMU had the following characteristics.

  • A range of upwards of sixty miles on battery power.
  • Similar performance on battery or direct power.
  • Virtually identical driving experience.

I would also add that the passenger experience was virtually identical.

Network Rail and Bombardier have put a lot of time, effort and money into the IPEMU. They believe, that IPEMUs and their battery power will have the following applications.

  • Providing affordable electric services on branch lines or other lines that are difficult to electrify.
  • Moving trains around in depots and sidings that have not been electrified.
  • Train recovery and diversion, when the power fails.
  • Used in conjunction with regenerative braking, IPEMU technology saves electricity.

Obviously, Bombardier very much believe in the technology, as their new train; the Aventra has been designed to use energy storage.

IPEMU is an acronym, that will increasingly be used with trains.

The Class 387 Train

Southern, who operate a lot of services south of London are users of Class 387 trains.

The Class 387/1 trains will be replaced by Class 700 trains, as they arrive from Germany.

Unfortunately, due to the well-documented problems of Network Rail’s electrification, it looks like a lot of these twenty-nine trains could be put into storage.

I believe that some of these trains will be given an IPEMU capability to be used to provide electric train services on certain lines.

As they are closely related to the Class 379 train used for the prototype, I feel that most of the technical problems have been solved.

Along The South Coast From Southampton to Ashford

The South Coast from Southampton to Ashford is covered by two separate rail routes.

If you want to travel between say Hastings and Worthing, you will have to change trains at Brighton.

This usually means a wait of a few minutes and a change of platform.

Any sane person would believe that if a single train could run all the way from Southampton to Ashford, this would be better for many reasons.

  • The train company would probably need less trains.
  • Passengers wouldn’t have to change trains at Brighton.
  • There could probably be a simpler interchange between Coastway and Brighton Main Line services at Brighton station, which might release platform space.
  • Both Coastway routes are limited to speeds below 80 mph and are fairly straight, so perhaps with some improvements, faster services could be introduced.

Until recently, the only trains capable of going from Ashford to Southampton would have been diesel multiple units, but as the only part of the route that is not electrified is the Marshlink Line from Ore to Ashford, it would now be possible to run the service using an IPEMU variant of a Class 387 train.  The train would charge its on-board batteries between Southampton and Ore and at Ashford and then use battery power to bridge the gap of about thirty miles on the Marshlink Line.

As IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, then it would seem that there should be few problems in running the trains between Ashford and Ore.

This approach has benefits.

  • The Class 387 train is an 110 mph electric train with regenerative braking, so services could be faster.
  • GTR has quite a few of the standard Class 387 trains in service, so the company and their drivers probably know them well.
  • GTR could say they have removed a number of diesel trains and they are a greener company.
  • Network Rail would only have to update the track and signalling of the Marshlink Line for four-car trains and wouldn’t need to electrify any of the route.

Currently, to go from Ashford to Southampton takes three hours forty-five minutes and it is quicker to go via St. Pancras and Waterloo. But with a 110 mph train and no changes, timings must be possible in the region of three hours.

I suspect that with some selected track improvements, a limited-stop service could be a real South Coast Express.

There certainly is some scope and I’ll detail each improvements on the main East and West Coastways separately,

The Marshlink Line

The Marshlink Line is not fully double-tracked, has several level crossings and a low speed limit, which if improved, would probably be welcomed.

The Marshlink Line Action Group web site has an extensive report about improving the line, of which this is an extract, from a report which discusses extending the Class 395 train service from Ashford to Hastings.

The basics of the project are substantially as presented last year with line speeds generally expected to be 60-90 mph from Ashford to Doleham and 40-60 mph onwards to Hastings. But the ongoing big question for NR (and of concern to MLAG from an environmental point of view and compatibility with rolling stock in the surrounding lines) is whether the power source would be third rail (as MLAG would prefer) or overhead. NR acknowledges the difficulty of overhead power along the Marsh with gantries having to be built on (obviously) marsh land and with the strong winds. Whichever, some 30 miles of track would need to be laid but, apparently, only about half a mile of dualled track to the west of Rye.

Incidentally, there has been talk about running Class 395 trains from St. Pancras to Eastbourne via HS1 to Ashford and the Marshlink Line. It would undoubtedly be a fast service, but it has some inherent disadvatages.

  • The Marshlink Line would need to be electrified, probably with 25KVAC overhead wires.
  • Some people might object to the wires across the marshes?
  • Would it need some extra Class 395 trains to be purchased?
  • Would it mean that one franchise was encroaching on the territory of another?

On the other hand, using IPEMU trains would simplify the job and mean no electrification would be needed.

However, it would probably be a good idea to make sure that as much dualled track was created, to maintain an efficient service on the line in the future.

The Willingdon Chord And Eastbourne

There has been talk about reinstating the Willingdon Chord, which could shorten the line by making it possible for trains to by-pass Eastbourne, But the locals fear, that Eastbourne would lose services.

However, surely some fast long-distance services along the South Coast could by-pass the town.

A skilled compiler of timetables could probable devise one for Eastbourne, that gave the town, faster and better services to Brighton, Southampton and London.

Lewes And The Wealden Line

It is an aspiration of many to reinstate the Wealden Line, as a new route to London to take pressure off the Brighton Main Line.

In Musical Trains In Sussex, I gave my reasons for believing that the Uckfield Branch could be run using Class 387 IPEMUs.

I also believe that if the Wealden Line is reinsatated that it will use the same type of train.

Obviously, Network Rail and Southern, will make sure that the Wealden Line project doesn’t conflict with a desire to run fast trains along the South Coast.

Hove Station

Hove station is a busy one with up to eight services an hour passing through in both directions, to and from Victoria and Gatwick Airport as well as Brighton.

There were aspirations that in the future to add the London Bridge to Littlehampton via Hove service to Thameslink. The service would use the Cliftonville Curve to access the Brighton Main Line, as it does now.

This would give all stations on the West Coastway Line between Hove and Littlehampton, two trains per hour through to London Bridge and beyond

Except for the Future Developments section in the Wikipedia entry for Hove station, I can’t find any more about this proposal.

The Arundel Chord

One piece of infrastructural that gets mentioned is a chord at Arundel that would connect the West Coastway Line to the Arun Valley Line between Angmering and Ford stations.

If it were to be built, it would create another route between Brighton and Three Bridges using the eastern part of the West Coastway and the Arun Valley Line.

Westward From Littlehampton

My only experience of the western end of the West Coastway line, was missing a train and having to wait an hour on a freezing and deserted Bosham station for the next train.

The service could probably benefit from a rethink.


Brighton is the major interchange between the two Coastway services and the Brighton Main Line with its Gatwick Express, Victoria and Thameslink services.

Brighton station certainly needs improvement to cope with the large increase in capacity to the city, that Thameslink and its new Class 700 trains will bring.

Each twelve-car Class 700 train, will have a capacity approaching 1,800 passengers and there will be four of these trains to and from Central London and beyond every hour.

Obviously, the trains won’t be full at Brightpon and not all passengers will be walking to and from the station, so there needs to be better connections to buses and the two Coastway Lines.

At present, it takes a few minutes and a platform change to pass through Brighton if you’re going between services at the station.

  • Brighton Main Line, Gatwick Express and Thameslink services.
  • East Coastway services
  • West Coastway services.
  • Great Western Railway services to the West.

The platform layout at Brighton doesn’t look as if it was designed to make train services for passengers and train companies efficient.

So surely, if Coastway services could be linked, so that they came into the station, set down and picked up passengers before going out in the other direction, this would be a more efficient way to organise trains at the station.

It would also make the interchange between Coastway and Brighton Main Line services easier and hopefully, just a walk across a platform.

A reorganised Brighton could probably contribute several minutes to the savings in journey times along the Coastway.

This Google Map shows Brighton station and the two Coastway Lines coming into the station.

Brighton Station And The Coastways

Brighton Station And The Coastways

I don’t think it would be an affordable or even a sensible solution, to combine the two Coastways together north of Brighton station.

The Wivelsfield Alternative

But Network Rail have come up with an alternative solution, so that the two Coastways can be connected together.

Just sixteen kilometres north of Brighton is Wivelsfield station. It is possible to access the East Coastway Line just south of the station at Keymer Junction, which unfortunately is not grade-separated and probably needs to be to improve Eastbourne services from Victoria.

Wikipedia has a section on the future of Wivelsfield station, which says this.

In Autumn 2015 Network Rail released the Sussex Area Route Study, where two options for the proposed grade separation of Keymer Junction are detailed, both of which would transform the station dramatically. Option 1 is the minimal option and creates a new platform 0 on the west side of the station served by a 3rd track from the new flyover line from Lewes. Option 2 is much more ambitious and builds on option 1 by adding an additional 4th platform on the east side of the station as well, served by a 4th track on the line to Lewes. Whilst this would enable each line to the south to have a dedicated platform the primary benefit would be that the existing platforms could be used to turn back trains in either direction as needed without blocking the main lines.

As services can access the West Coastway Line through the Cliftonville Tunnel to Hove, which is a couple of miles north of Brighton station, it would appear that the two Coastways could be connected, with a reverse at Wivelsfield.

The route would be.

This is not a complete solution, as there would have to be a way to get to Brighton station, by probably changing at Lewes, Wivelsfield or Hove.

A Brighton Metro

In a trip to Brighton, I travelled to Seaford using the East Coastway and the Seaford Branch. Even on a Sunday morning in February, the three-car Class 313 train was pretty full, especially around the University of Sussex at Falmer station.

So could the half-hourly Brighton-Seaford service be extended to the west of the City to perhaps Hove, Littlehampton or even Bognor Regis?

It would surely generate its own traffic across the city, which could help to reduce Brighton’s bad traffic jams. Stations could be.

I think if you can sort out Brighton station or create the Wivelsfield alternative, you could run a four trains per hour stopping service across the city for as far as you want.

Perhaps the slower stopping trains would go via Brighton and the semi-fast services would go via Wivelsfield.

It’s a problem, that I suspect Network Rail have thought through fully!

Train Movements At Brighton

The only problem would be that the combined Coastway Line would need to cross the throat of the station, probably in a flat junction.

Say the Joint Coastway Line had the following services at Brighton.

  • 2-4 trains per hour between Seaford and Littlehampton/Bognor, that would stop at all stations including Brighton.
  • 2-4 trains per hour between Ashford International and Portsmouth Harbour and/or Southampton Central, that would stop at major stations only.

These would come into a platform or platforms on the Eastern side of the station, which would mean any train going to or coming from the West Coastway, would have to cross the Brighton Main Line to London.

The services to and from London after Thameslink is fully opened could be.

  • 3 trains per hour to Victoria.
  • 4 trains per hour on Thameslink

I’m no signalling expert, but I do feel that much more onerous train movements are coped with in stations like Manchester Piccadilly, Paddington and Waterloo.

Note the four trains per hour frequency on Thameslink (two from Cambridge and two from Bedford) Surely, if Coastway services are four trains per hour, then all services should have a pattern, so journeys like Seaford to Cambridge, involved just a walk across a platform at Brighton.

I’m sure some clever train scheduler can come up with an optimal pattern of changing trains at Brighton, especially if some trains used the alternative route via Wivelsfield.

But my feeling is that as Brighton is such an important station, that all Coastway services must either terminate or stop in the station.

At least there does not appear to be significant freight running on the Coastways.

Capacity At Brighton Station

The Thameslink Program and its Class 700 trains, will probably increase passengers through Brighton station.

Knowing the quality of Network Rail’s passenger transport modelling, I would not bet against Thameslink being so successful between London and Brighton, that additional services have to be added.

As the Thameslink trains will be new and they serve lots of destinations in London and beyond, I think it is a given, that passengers from places like Eastbourne and Worthing, might use Thameslink instead of their local direct route, changing at either Brighton or Gatwick Airport.


Improvement of the Coastways, is just one part of an evolving plan for rail and air services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

As there are important lines in the area that are not electrified, I’m certain that IPEMUs will play a part in this development.

After all, the technology works and we will soon have lots of Class 387 trains sitting in sidings.


February 6, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Trip To Uckfield

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Lewes Station

Lewes station  has an unusual layout, as this Google Map shows.

Lewes Station

Lewes Station

The line going off to the right is the East Coastway Line to Bexhill, Hastings and eventually via the Marshlink Line toAshford.

The top line at the left goes to Plumpton and eventually to London, whilst the bottom one goes to Brighton.

At the moment a great deal of work is going on, as these pictures of the station show.

Lewes could end up being a more important station if plans to reopen the Wealden Line to Uckfield come to fruition, to create a second route between London and Brighton. There is a BML2 web site, which is nothing but ambitious, as this map shows.

BML2 Map

BML2 Map

I think that the Lewes to Uckfield section might be rebuilt and it would be an ideal place to use IPEMU trains, as they could be used on the whole of the Uckfield Branch of the Oxted Line to replace the current Class 171 diesel trains.

I have a feeling too, that IPEMUs would be ideal to bridge the electrification gap between Ashford and Ore and allow Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne to have high-speed services to St. Pamcras. Would these services if they ever start turn back at Eastbourne, Brighton or Lewes?

There is certainly scope for extra services in the area, if only there were more routes to London. In many places along the South Coast, services are hourly, which given the development and other issues in the area, probably isn’t enough.

In my view, half-hourly services are the minimum frequency on any rail-line that is connected to major centres of population, as this effectively, is a turn-up-and-go service. If the Scots feel this is needed on the Borders Railway, then the logic probably applies along the Sussex Coast.

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Plumpton Station, Level Crossing And Racecourse

When a friend phoned me from Brighton asking me next time I was in the area to meet him for a coffee, I decided to combine the trip with a visit to the site of the level crossing in I Wonder If This Happens In Europe.

These are pictures I took at Plumpton station.

It would not be called grand, but it must be one of the few stations in the UK with an attached racecourse.

The rebuilding of the level crossing is causing problems according to Wikipedia. This is said.

Network Rail closed the level crossing in September 2015 so that the gates on the crossing could be replaced. However, Lewes District Council rejected the plans to replace the gates as it would cause “substantial harm to the significance of the signal box”. Network Rail have said that they cannot open the crossing as the work is not completed. This has effectively split the village in two, with some motorists having to take a six or seven mile detour.

I did chat with a local and her grey whippet and feel that there could be more to this than meets the eye.

If you type “Plumpton suicide” into Google, you find reports, where people have killed themselves at the crossing.

But I also feel that Network Rail haven’t been too clever in this one. My view is that stations like Plumpton need at least a half-hourly service, as this means you have a proper turn-up-and-go service.

One of the pieces of work being done in the area, is to close all the signal boxes and handle all signalling from Three Bridges Operating Centre. This work combined with an automated level crossing, could surely enable all the half-hourly services between Lewes and London to stop at the station.

But it would enrage the militant wing of the heritage lobby!

As to the signal box, they should be looking at a version of the Highams Park solution. Perhaps it would make a cafe and/or business centre.

Starting a half-hourly service might have the effect of increasing traffic at the station.

It’s a difficult one, but with the population of areas like Sussex getting older, more numerous and more and more people cutting use of their cars, who knows?

For the duration of the level crossing closure, Network Rail and Southern had a golden opportunity to experiment with stopping all services. Some of those drivers, who are doing a long detour, might have been persuaded to try the trains to Lewes, Brighton or London.

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Sport, Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

I Wonder If This Happens In Europe

This article from Rail News entitled Level crossing upgrade hits deadlock is priceless. This is the first couple of paragraphs.

A bid to upgrade the gates at a ‘high risk’ level crossing in Sussex has fallen foul of planning laws, and Network Rail has written a letter of apology to local residents who have been protesting that the road across the railway has now been closed for several weeks.

The gates at Plumpton between Burgess Hill and Lewes are of the traditional pattern, and controlled from the box alongside. But Network Rail said that “despite its local popularity and heritage, independent risk assessments had identified that the level crossing posed a high safety risk, as well as being increasingly difficult to operate and maintain”.

They now need to be replaced with modern lifting barriers which could in future be controlled by the new Rail Operating Centre at Three Bridges. The upgrade is costing £2 million.

This all sounds straightforward.

But it isn’t as Lewes Council has refused planning permission on heritage grounds.

The lawyers must be loving this one, as it will obviously run and run.

But as it’s a high risk crossing, surely this crossing should be closed before a serious accident happens.

Remember, I used to live in East Anglia and every few months or so, there was a news story about a serious level crossing accident.

Network Rail should be tasked to get rid of them all as soon as possible, so more tragedies like Elsenham and Ufton Nervet never happen again.

I suppose they could always close the East Coastway Line and run Rail Replacement Buses instead.

I wonder if other countries in Europe handle this sort of problem better!

October 12, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment