Passengers in Kent can look forward to more reliable train services to and through London as Network Rail today confirmed a major programme of work to upgrade the Sevenoaks tunnel and the railway which runs through it.
The Victorian tunnel on the busy South Eastern Main Line between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge is one of the longest railway tunnels in the country. Leaks and poor drainage have been a major issue since the tunnel’s construction more the 150 years ago causing water build-up which damages the track, signalling and power supply – all of which can cause delays for passengers.
Over the course of 13 weekends in 2018 – including the Easter and late May bank holidays weekends – teams of engineers will work round the clock to complete improvements to the drainage systems to direct water away from the track, before replacing the tracks, signalling and power supply with new, modern and more reliable equipment.
The work is part of a £300m government-funded programme to tackle delay hotspots and improve railway reliability and will benefit Southeastern passengers across large parts of Kent as well as Thameslink passengers travelling on services between Sevenoaks and Bedford via central London.
When work is taking place in the tunnel, Southeastern services between London Charing Cross and Hastings will divert via East Croydon and Redhill, with buses replacing trains between Tonbridge and Sevenoaks. Passengers are reminded to check before travelling.
Steve Kilby, Network Rail programme manager, said:
“When the tunnel was built in the 1860s, the engineers weren’t aware of just how much water they would encounter underground. It’s been an ongoing struggle to keep services running reliably through the tunnel since.
“Thankfully, we now have the funding to sort the drainage once and for all and replace the track, signalling and power supply – meaning better, more reliable journeys for passengers.
“I know disruption to train services at the weekend is never welcome, so I’d like to thank Southeastern passengers in advance for their patience and understanding while we carry out this work.”
“Once completed, these essential maintenance and improvement works will provide our passengers with more reliable journeys across our network.
“On the weekends when the works are being carried out, we’ll be diverting some trains onto different routes, and will be providing replacement buses between those stations with no service.”
“I’d encourage all of our passengers to plan ahead and check before they travel by checking the journey planner on our website, downloading our “On Track” travel app, and following us on Twitter @Se_Railway, for live travel information.”