Brighton Main Line improvement works re-scheduled to reduce impact on passengers: Ouse Valley viaduct

Friday 13 Jul 2018

Brighton Main Line improvement works re-scheduled to reduce impact on passengers

Region & Route:
South East

A previously planned nine-day closure of the southern end of the Brighton Main Line this October half-term will now not go ahead following a decision by Network Rail to revise the way a major improvement programme is carried out.

Network Rail had agreed with Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services, to close the lines between Three Bridges and Brighton and Three Bridges and Lewes for two nine-day periods coinciding with the October 2018 and February 2019 school half-terms, in addition to a number of weekend closures.

The improvement work – part of a £300m government-funded improvement programme to boost reliability for passengers on the Brighton Main Line and other key routes in the South East – will now be carried out in just one nine-day closure from 16-24 February 2019, subject to the rail industry’s usual assurance reviews. The supporting 15 weekend closures between September 2018 and May 2019 will go ahead unchanged. Some elements of the work as originally planned will now be deferred until the next five-year funding period, starting in April 2019.

Network Rail has taken the decision to revise the main body of work in consultation with the Department for Transport and Govia Thameslink Railway. Passengers now have more time to plan ahead before the weekday closures in February next year, while allowing the rail industry to focus its immediate efforts on embedding the interim timetable from this Sunday, 15 July and delivering a more dependable service.

During the line closures, no trains will run between Three Bridges and Brighton or between Three Bridges and Lewes. Rail replacement buses will be in operation, as well as diverted train service between London and Brighton via Littlehampton. Passengers should allow considerably more time for their journeys during these periods.

John Halsall, Network Rail’s managing director for the South East route, said: “I know many passengers have had a really tough time since the timetable change in May. That's why I asked for a review of all our planned maintenance and improvement work with GTR to identify any opportunities to postpone or re-plan engineering work to a later date.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to re-plan the way we’re carrying out this long-overdue upgrade to one of the most unreliable parts of our rail network, meaning passengers will get almost all of the reliability benefits but with significantly less weekday disruption.

“I’d urge passengers to plan ahead and we’ll continue to work closely with the train operators, Transport Focus and passenger groups to make sure the travelling public get the best possible service during the closures.”

Keith Jipps, Govia Thameslink Railway’s Infrastructure Director, said: “This route is the most congested and intensively used in the country and Network Rail’s work is essential to give our passengers the reliable, on-time services they want and deserve.

“We’ll be ensuring there are many options for passengers to make their journeys, including alternative transport to other rail stations and with other train operators. However, passengers need to know that they will have significantly longer journeys when the railway is closed.”

The improvement work will focus on four Victorian-era tunnels – Balcombe, Clayton, Patcham and Haywards Heath – and the railway which runs through them. A major programme to stem leaks into the tunnels and provide reliable drainage away from the tracks will take place, while sections of the track, third rail power system and signalling will be replaced or upgraded. Elsewhere, track will be renewed, sets of points, which enable trains to switch between tracks, will be replaced and fencing will be improved to deter trespassers.

Without this programme of work, reliability on the Brighton Main Line would deteriorate in the months and years ahead, leading to more delays for passengers travelling between London and the south coast.

Brighton Main Line Improvement Project - banner
Brighton Main Line Improvement Project - banner

Information for passengers

To sign up for free alerts and to find out more about the work – including the dates of planned weekend closures – go to News and information will also be shared on Twitter, @brighton_line.

Notes to Editors

About the Thameslink Resilience Programme

As part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, Network Rail is delivering a £300m targeted programme to boost the resilience and reliability of the railway on routes critical to the expanded Thameslink network. The multi-million pound programme will improve reliability for passengers along the Brighton Main Line and other key routes both north and south of the Thameslink ‘core’ through central London including the Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line.

Using a data-driven approach, we will target areas where the most significant asset-related delays currently originate, turning delay hotspots into more resilient infrastructure. Work will include:

  • replacing tracks and signalling and renewing key junctions;
  • improving security by the railway to help prevent trespass;
  • improving drainage in Victorian tunnels to prevent water damage to electrical equipment;
  • shoring up cuttings and embankments to reduce the risk of landslides.

Working with teams across Network Rail, we have created a series of work packages which bring together all necessary asset improvement works required on each section of railway so they can be delivered within an integrated programme. This ‘go there once’ approach means funds will be spent in the most cost-effective way and minimises overall disruption to passengers.

There will be times when we will need to make significant changes to train services, and in some cases close lines entirely, while the bigger improvements are carried out. We know disruption is unwelcome, but passengers will benefit from a better, more reliable railway when our work is complete.

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 - South East route
020 3357 7969

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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