Rail chiefs have hailed an £80 million package of improvements which has seen the London to Brighton mainline significantly upgraded over Christmas and the New Year.
More than 150 railway workers and engineers worked round the clock between Christmas Day and last Thursday (January 2) to upgrade the railway at Gatwick Airport, London Victoria station and a major junction between Redhill and Purley.
The improvements completed by Network Rail will, say rail chiefs, mean long-term benefits for passengers.
These will include a more reliable infrastructure, which will help reduce disruption, and an additional platform at Gatwick Airport, which will provide greater flexibility for services calling at the station from next month.
Rail bosses said the new platform and associated track and signalling work at Gatwick Airport station has the potential to reduce delays caused by congestion on the busy line. Around 1,300 metres of track was laid, a 50 metre-long footbridge was renewed and a 250 metre-long new platform, complete with a new lift, escalators and high-level walkway to the station, was completed. The new platform will become operational next month. A major junction replacement between Redhill and Purley - Stoats Nest junction - was also completed, removing the need for speed restrictions and increasing the reliability of the infrastructure. Network Rail said replacing Stoats Nest junction was a “huge engineering challenge.” A total of 16 separate switches and crossings were replaced which, if they were laid end to end, would be around one mile long. More than 350 separate welds were used to complete the work and around 7,770 tons of spoil were removed and replaced, using 21 trains to transport the material. However, Network Rail said that its Sussex route team had also had to deal with damage caused by the recent storms. Two landslips at Redhill and Coulsdon, caused by the rain storms, have been repaired, along with flood and fire damage to the track at West Croydon, and flooding near Balcombe. But it said a serious landslip at Ockley, between Horsham and Dorking, will take longer to rebuild, with services unlikely to resume until the end of January at the earliest.
Tim Robinson, Network Rail’s route managing director for the Sussex route, said: “These three significant upgrades are part of our commitment to deliver a safer, more efficient and reliable railway, which meets the increasing demands placed on it by a growing number of passengers.”
Mr Robinson said: “The three complex and challenging pieces of work were carried out simultaneously, which helped to minimise the level of disruption to passengers. “After many months of meticulous planning, and the hard work and dedication of our staff during some fairly atrocious weather conditions, the railway was upgraded and reopened on time as planned.”
He said: “I would like to thank passengers for their patience while we completed this essential work, and can assure them that we will continue to work with our partners and invest in the Sussex route to provide passengers with an ever- improving service.” Adrian Witherow, head of terminals at London Gatwick, said: “Passengers are our number one priority and we have worked closely with the train operating companies and Network Rail to help minimise any disruption to travellers over the festive period.”
Mr Witherow said: “The upgrades will make for a much improved passenger experience for both arriving and departing travellers who will be using rail services.”
David Scorey, Southern’s operations director, said: “We would like to thank our passengers for their patience and understanding while these vital improvements took place over the festive period, which has much improved the infrastructure on key areas of the Brighton Main Line, which we expect will help to deliver performance improvements in the future”
Keith Jipps, First Capital Connect's customer service director, said: "This work had a major impact on our services, adding up to 90 minutes to passengers' journeys. “I'm delighted it has been completed successfully and really pleased by how we've worked together as an industry to make sure we warned people in good time."