Monday 9 Jun 2003


Region & Route:
| Southern
Major upgrade work will begin on Strood and Higham tunnels in January 2004 allowing the line speed to return to 70 mph and Connex to offer a better service for passengers. As a result, the tunnels will be closed from 17 January 2004 for 12 months. Speed restrictions have been in place since December 1999, following a chalk fall, to ensure services running through the tunnels remain safe. Network Rail has evaluated the available options and will be carrying out an extensive project to reinforce those sections of tunnel that are currently unlined by using steel support arches and concrete lining.  Additional work, including the installation of a new drainage system to protect the line from rising water levels from the Thames and Medway Rivers and a complete renewal of the tracks, will also be undertaken to prevent any future disruptions to services through the tunnel.             This project spans over 3535m of tunnel and track and is the longest tunnel reconstruction project to be undertaken on Britain’s railway in recent times.             One obvious downside to this will be the need to close the tunnel while work is being done. It means that the tunnel will be closed from the 17th January for a period of 12 months. Whilst both Higham and Strood stations will remain open, there will be no train services running between the two. Instead, there will be a replacement bus service operating throughout this time. While the long-term benefits are clear, we know it will create short-term frustrations and Network Rail and Strood– 2 Connex are working closely together to keep disruption for passengers and local residents to a minimum.             We will be working closely with the local community and stakeholders to inform them of our plans and will be embarking on an extensive communications programme to ensure that those affected by the work are notified way in advance of it commencing. Robin Gisby, Regional Director, Network Rail Southern said, “We have a duty to provide a safe and reliable railway and I am pleased that this work will allow us to remove the speed restriction and return the line speed to 70 mph giving passengers the service they deserve.” Michael Holden, Managing Director, Connex added, "We're delighted that the engineering work has finally been given the go ahead because our passengers have had to put up with slower journeys and unplanned closures for a long time. We will try our best to keep disruption to a minimum while the work is going on, but feel sure passengers will understand that the inconvenience will guarantee a more reliable train service on this line for future generations of rail travellers."

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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.

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