Ashford and Kent rail passengers advised to check before they travel as part of major Christmas upgrade: Ashford International aerial

Wednesday 16 Oct 2019

Ashford and Kent rail passengers advised to check before they travel as part of major Christmas upgrade

Region & Route:
South East

Ashford and Kent rail passengers are advised to plan ahead and check before they travel over Christmas 2019, especially if travelling on Friday 27 December, as Network Rail works to improve the railway as part of record investment plans for the Kent network. 

From Thursday 26 December – Sunday 29 December 2019, as well as a number of weekends before and after, Network Rail will replace track and three sets of old switches and crossings, the moveable rails which allow trains to switch tracks, at Ashford International station.  Track drainage will be improved, helping to maintain track quality and reduce delays from track faults well into the future. The third rail, where train draw power and points, the mechanical equipment that moves switches and crossings, will also be upgraded to improve reliability. 

On the following dates Southeastern Highspeed and Eurostar services will not stop at Ashford. Mainline services will run but some services will be subject to change:

  • Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 November 2019
  • Thursday 26 – Sunday 29 December 2019 – including one ordinary working day
  • Saturday 4 – Sunday 5 January 2020
  • Saturday 11 – Sunday 12 January 2020
  • Sunday 19 January 2020.

Shaun King, Interim Kent Route Director at Network Rail, said:

“We know that the most important thing for passengers is for them to get to where they need to be ontime. Over the next five years we’re doing more work to improve reliability on the Kent network than ever before, addressing decades of underinvestment in the region’s railway. 

“This work to install new track, drainage and switches and crossings at Ashford will give passengers using this section of railway smoother, more reliable journeys with fewer delays for decades to come.

“I’d to thank passengers for their patience while we work and remind them to check with their journeys before travelling.  The railway remains open but there will be changes so don’t get caught”.

Ellie Burrows, Train Services Director at Southeastern, said:

“This is a major investment and once complete this work will improve reliability of services for our passengers who use this busy route.

“We recognise that it will have an impact on train services at Ashford International. We will ensure passengers are aware of the changes and the alternative transport arrangements which will be put in place.

"If you are a Highspeed season ticket holder and you travel via Ashford International on Friday 27 December, you can claim for a refund of the Highspeed premium portion of your ticket."

During this work there will be no Southeastern Highspeed services between Canterbury West, Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International.

Passengers who would normally travel to London St Pancras via Ashford should use mainline services, which will take around 45 minutes longer than the usual Highspeed trains. Journeys can be re-planned on the Southeastern website and National Rail Enquiries, with more information on the planned work also available on the Southeastern website.

A rail replacement bus service will operate between Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International, and Ashford International and Canterbury West.

Highspeed season ticket holders travelling via Ashford International on Friday 27 December can claim for a refund of the Highspeed premium portion of their ticket on Southeastern's website from that date.    

Notes to Editors

Kent Upgrade -

Network Rail is spending more than £1.25bn over the next five years to replace signalling, tracks, structures, embankments, stations and depots to give passengers in Kent and South East London better journeys, with fewer delays.

The investment will help address decades of underinvestment in the Kent network, replacing ageing and increasingly fault prone railway with new, more reliable equipment - supporting improving train performance and keeping people and trains on the move for generations to come.

  • Replace 429km of track, at a cost of over £201m
  • Spend £162m on new signalling equipment, reducing faults and delays for passengers
  • Spend £21.4m to improve safety at level crossings
  • Replace 560 switches and crossings, junctions where trains switch tracks, at a cost of £170m
  • Spend £170m on replacing or refurbishing our structures, including 100 underbridges, 12 overbridges, 23 footbridges and 1 tunnel
  • Strengthen 9 other structures, so they can carry more trains and more passengers at the same time
  • Renew 90km of fencing to prevent trespass at a cost of £2.1m
  • Clear overgrown vegetation across 51km of railway to prevent seasonal delays caused fallen leaves and trees
  • We’ll also be introducing traffic and incident management technology at our control centres This will help our signallers manage the service more efficiently and recover from disruptive incidents more quickly.

Major projects include:

Bexleyheath line

9-day closure, between Barnehurst and Kidbrooke, from Saturday 15 – Sunday 23 February 2020, for a major work to protect passengers from landslips. Engineers will remove thousands of tonnes of soil to reduce the incline of the cutting and build retaining walls with steel beams hammered six metres into the ground. The work will protect the railway line from landslips for 120 years. Working with Southeastern, we will keep passengers moving by increasing services on other lines.

Hither Green area signalling and track upgrade

We’re working on a major £90m investment in a new signalling system from Hither Green to New Eltham, Elmstead Woods and Bromley North, as well as upgrades to track and junctions in the area.

The majority of the work will take place from September 2019 to April 2020.  The new signalling system will be brought into use over a four day closure of the railway in Easter 2020, 10 April - 13 April.

Some services will be amended, diverted or cancelled at weekends and bank holidays but trains will still run. Passengers are advised to plan ahead and check with their train operator before they travel.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - Ross Boyle
Senior communications manager
Network Rail
07730 354 480

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Every day, there are more than 4.8 million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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