Why Brighton’s seafront monorail failed to fly

An imagining of what the Brighton seafront monorail could have looked like.

“Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth/Like a a genuine, bona fide/Electrified six-car monorail/What’d  I say?”

So sang the huckster Lyle Lanley as he gulled the inhabitants of Springfield in one of the most inspired episodes of the Simpsons, ‘Marge vs The Monorail’.

It is a theme that echoes down the collective memory of Brighton and Hove.

In May 1968, the Junior Chamber of Commerce produced a supplement for the Brighton and Hove Herald which imagined the future King Charles III opening a monorail in 2000 which would whisk 1,200 people an hour to Shoreham in 10 minutes.

Eight years later than that predicted scenario, the idea was being mooted by real people. Music impresario David Courtney and local entrepreneur John Reagan unveiled a scheme to connect the marina, Palace Pier, Brighton Centre, King Alfred, Shoreham harbour and Shoreham airport.

The duo held meetings with Brighton and Hove City Council and the South East England Development Agency (Seeda).

James Brathwaite, chairman of Seeda, said a monorail could unlock the huge development potential at Shoreham port, which is earmarked for up to 10,000 homes.

In 2009, Mary Mears, the Conservative leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, told a cabinet meeting that the plans will be presented by the end of that year.

She said: “We are very keen to look at all forms of transport. There is a work in progress on the monorail and as soon as it’s a firmer proposal it will be coming to committee. It’s quite exciting. It’s another form of transport and an advert for the city.”

But the scheme failed to fly.

Undaunted, Reagan and Courtney dusted of their plan in 2016 in the wake of progress on the i360 and excitement over new plans for the KIng Alfred Leisure Centre. Brighton-based architect Nick Lomax, also chipped in with an idea which included relocating Volk’s Railway from its site in Madeira Drive.

David Courtney told The Argus he understood that  not everyone would support the idea and suggested a referendum as a means of letting people decide.

Mr Courtney said: “I have always been a big fan of referendums.”

But that referendum, like the monorail itself, has yet to get into gear.

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