East Sussex passengers are advised to plan ahead as work to complete a major upgrade of the line between Lewes and Seaford means buses will replace trains on all routes via Lewes – including those to and from Haywards Heath– for four days in March 2019.
Network Rail engineers will be working around the clock to complete the final phase of work on a project to upgrade the old signalling system on the line between Lewes and Seaford with modern, more reliable technology to reduce delays for passengers.
The final commissioning, when the current system will be disconnected and the new system switched on, can only be carried out with a closure of the railway in the Lewes area. Services between Brighton and London are not affected but there will be no trains west of Eastbourne via Lewes as far as Brighton, Seaford and Haywards Heath from Thursday, 7 March to Sunday, 10 March 2019.
A rail replacement bus service will operate throughout the affected area to keep passengers moving during the four days.
Paul Harwood, Network Rail director of investment, South East, said: “This is a much-needed upgrade to some of the oldest signalling in the country, with new state-of-the-art equipment providing passengers with more reliable journeys for many years to come.
“I’d like to thank people for their patience while we complete the upgrade in March. There is never a good time to close the railway and the alternatives would’ve meant impacting services over the Easter or May bank holiday weekends. Following our recent discussions with local stakeholders we know this would’ve been unacceptable to the leisure and tourism industry here on the south coast.
“We’re working closely with our colleagues at Southern to ensure people are fully aware of the closures and the alternative travel options available to them.”
Keith Jipps, Infrastructure Director for Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “This major investment will improve the reliability of signalling and therefore our services for passengers travelling on one of our key coastal routes. Working with Network Rail, we will publish detailed travel advice as soon as it is available.”
The upgrade will see signalling control of the Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford areas moved to Network Rail’s state-of-the-art route operating centre at Three Bridges, meaning that the signal boxes at Lewes, Newhaven Town and Newhaven Harbour will close.
The project will also increase the number of trains able to use the diversionary route for London–Brighton services via Lewes to three trains per hour, helping to keep passengers moving during planned and unplanned disruption.
A rail link for the new aggregates facility at Newhaven Marine will also be provided, helping to take hundreds of heavy goods vehicles of local roads.