Check before you travel to Rochester’s Dickensian Christmas as railway upgrade continues: New Rochester Station

Monday 21 Nov 2016

Check before you travel to Rochester’s Dickensian Christmas as railway upgrade continues

South East

One of the final stages of the massive improvement scheme in Rochester comes to a close this December 3 and 4.

Along with the brand new station, Network Rail has put a new signalling system in place through Medway, to improve the reliability and frequency of train services as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better railway for passengers.

A final set of changes to the system will be taking place over that weekend – during the Dickensian Christmas Festival in Rochester – and there will be changes to train services as a result, with no trains between Meopham and Rainham.  Strood station will be open as usual.

Network Rail’s head of signalling in the South East, Huw Edwards, said: “The people of Medway have been very patient with all the work we have been doing through here this year, and we’re almost there now.

“Southeastern’s new timetable this winter will ramp up the use of our new facilities, including the new tracks we’ve put in at Rochester and the loop that opened there in October. The work we’re doing over December 3 and 4 will make that possible by boosting our system up to its full capability and I appreciate people bearing with us while we do it.”

Passengers travelling to Dickensian Christmas from London will be able to walk across to the festival from Strood, a walk of less than ten minutes, while those from the coast will be able to catch a bus from Rainham station.

Southeastern’s Director of Train Services Richard Dean said: “The work that Network Rail is doing is enormously important for the railway. It is crucial to the future of the infrastructure which is used by hundreds of thousands of passengers daily and growing.

“Rochester has seen a new station built, Strood is soon to get a new one, and hundreds of millions of pounds is being invested in improving signalling and track in the area.

“This does mean that passengers using Rochester station have had to put up with a great deal of engineering work and this will continue during Dickensian Christmas on December 3 and 4.

“Those travelling by train from London should head to Strood and then we would advise them to make the short walk over Rochester bridge to the high street to enjoy the festival. Those coming from coastal Kent will be able to catch a special fast bus we are putting on to Strood via the Medway Tunnel. We would urge all passengers to please check before they travel.”

A Medway Council spokesperson said: “Whilst it is unfortunate that railway works are taking place during the Dickensian Christmas Festival, we understand Network Rail and Southeastern are working to ensure those making the journey to Rochester are aware of the temporary changes to the service and arranging replacement buses where necessary, to make the journey as smooth as possible for passengers.

“Dickensian Christmas is one of the high points in Medway’s events calendar, attracting both local people and visitors from further afield. We hope those who enjoy the festival year after year will join us again, and we look forward to welcoming those who plan to come along for the first time. As always, there will be something on offer for all the family, making it a great way to get in the mood for Christmas. Visit for more details.”

The work taking place this weekend is the final technical updating and testing of the systems that look after trains’ safety in Medway. Modern signalling in the area – the traffic lights of the railway – runs from powerful computers in Gillingham and the railway has to be closed for the system to be worked on safely and test trains to be run.


Festival-goers coming from the London direction by train are advised to head to Strood which is a short ten minute walk from the festival site on Rochester High Street.

Festival-goers travelling from coastal Kent will be able to pick up an express bus from Rainham to Strood via the Medway Tunnel, which will avoid the festival traffic. This will allow them to make the short walk from Strood.

There will also be a fast replacement bus service from Strood to Rainham, via the Medway Tunnel, allowing this wishing to continue their journey towards coastal Kent to avoid the festival traffic.

A replacement bus service will also travel between Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham.

Football fans seeking to take the high speed the Medway Towns or beyond to Stratford International to watch West Ham v Arsenal are advised to drive to Ebbsfleet and park there, rather than park at Strood.

Trains to Rochester from Victoria will stop at Meopham where a replacement bus will go via Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham to Rainham.

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 - Chris Denham
Media relations manager (South East route)
020 3357 7969
07515 626530

About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 38,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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