17 Jan 2011

Buses replace trains

Buses replace trains, originally uploaded by seadipper.

Yet again at the weekends, buses are replacing trains on the 20 mile stretch of the Brighton main line south of Three Bridges, disrupting services between Brighton, Eastbourne and along the south coast.

Being a very busy route, about 15 weekends a year work has to be done on the line to make good all the wear and tear it gets. The bus services are well organised and all is as good as could be in the circumstances.

However, there must be a significant economic loss to Brighton and other places on the coast, due to the fewer number of visitors. And one wonders if it really necessary to close the entire stretch of line so often.

The real issue, however, is this. The Brighton main line has four tracks from London to Three Bridges. Just before the Second World War, when the line had been electrified, the extra pair of tracks was extended southwards as far as Balcombe Tunnel, And there it stopped, apart from a four track section through Haywards Heath. If the four tracking was completed as far as Wivelsfield, where the Eastbourne and Brighton lines split, there would be no need for these buses and it would be easier to deal with other disruptions.

This would of course be a relatively expensive stretch of line, with the construction of a second tunnel at Balcombe a new viaduct across the Ouse Valley, but how do the costs and benefits weigh up?

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