Network Rail said its engineers have carried out 'the lion's share' of its £67 million improvement works on the Brighton Mainline after a nine-day closure.
The railway lines between Brighton and Lewes to Three Bridges were closed over the February half-term.
Network Rail said more than three quarters of passengers made alternative travel arrangements, worked from home or took annual leave during the school half-term, after an extensive passenger awareness campaign.
Over the nine-day closure, from February 16 to 24, Network Rail said more than 250 engineers worked around the clock at 26 sites to complete the biggest upgrade of the railway between Brighton and Three Bridges in more than 30 years.
Highlights of the engineering work completed include:
- Extensive drainage works in Balcombe Tunnel: The Victorian brick culvert drainage system in one of the South East’s longest railway tunnels had a build-up of silt and other debris, along with damage to brickwork. This compromised the drainage system and led to flooding, which in turn caused signalling and power supply problems.
- Balcombe Tunnel Junction: Renewed and upgraded this junction, replacing 600 metres of track, improving the layout of the junction and replacing switches and crossings, which allow trains to move tracks.
- A complete renewal and upgrade of the lineside signalling and power systems between Haywards Heath and Preston Park, with more reliable, modern high-tech equipment.
- Extensive work at affected stations, including platform improvements, deep-cleaning, repainting waiting rooms, ticket offices and station buildings, repairing and replacing footbridges, and repairing fencing as well as tidying up plants and hedgerows.
The closure affected thousands of Southern and Thameslink passengers who travel from Brighton, Hove, Lewes, Eastbourne, Balcombe, Haywards Heath, Wivelsfield, Hassocks, Preston Park, Plumpton and Cooksbridge station.
John Halsall, Network Rail South East’s managing director, said: “I’d like to say thank you to the passengers who have been disrupted by this crucial work, which is one of the biggest projects we’ve ever undertaken.
“I know it’s been difficult for them and I am really grateful that so many changed their plans for the week to enable us to concentrate the work in this way. The alternative would have been 84 separate weekend closures, so this has been much more effective for them as well as for us.
“It will be worth it in the long run as we’ve been able to complete major work to the ageing infrastructure which has caused so many delays in the past, as well as repairs in the Victorian-era tunnels which were prone to flooding.
“All of this means we can provide a more reliable service that passengers deserve and can depend on.”
Keith Jipps, GTR’s infrastructure director, said: “We’re pleased to welcome passengers back and I apologise for anyone that has been inconvenienced during these essential works and I am grateful for their patience throughout this challenging project.
"Working with our partners at Network Rail and our contractors and suppliers, together we have successfully overseen one of the biggest rail replacement services ever, with a temporary bus hub at Three Bridges, 240 buses being driven by 530 drivers and nearly 300 additional staff to help passengers and keep them moving.
“Members of staff across both organisations and our suppliers have been a great credit to the rail industry and the great feedback our passengers have given us recognises what a great job our people have done. The amount of work that has been carried out whilst the line was blocked has been massive and we will see the benefits by providing better punctuality and reliable services for our passengers.”
Now engineers will turn their attention to planning for the final stages of the work, which will be carried out over five weekends between March and May this year on the following weekends:
- March 2 and 3
- March 23 and 24
- March 30 and 31
- April 6 and 7
- May 5
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