Sussex passengers are seeing the benefits of a major upgrade programme this week as Network Rail finished replacing the signalling system on the route from Lewes to Seaford, via Newhaven, replacing a system controlled from three signal boxes dating back to 1879.

This week also saw the final weekend closure of the line between Barham and Havant, via Chichester, where a massive project of track replacement and station refurbishment has been underway since late October. Over 2km of track has been laid in that time, giving passengers a better ride.

The new signalling technology at Lewes is controlled from the state-of-the-art route operating centre at Three Bridges, delivering a more reliable service with fewer delays for passengers.     

As a result of the upgrade, during disruption on the Brighton Main Line, three times as many trains and passengers can now use the diversionary route for London to Brighton services via Lewes, helping to keep passengers on the move.

Track and points at Southerham junction, where trains switch track for Lewes, Eastbourne or Seaford had previously been renewed as part of the project, giving a smoother and more reliable ride.

Thousands of Southern Rail passengers who rely on the line each day returned on Monday to brighter and cleaner stations. Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) worked together to use the closure to carry out a series of improvements at Seaford, Bishopstone, Newhaven Town, Southease and Glynde stations. We work closely with our local communities and so we know these station improvements will be welcome.

John Halsall, managing director for Network Rail Southern Region, said: “I’d like to say thank you to the passengers who have been disrupted by this crucial work, which was needed to modernise the signalling system.

“I am extremely grateful that so many changed their plans for the four days to enable us to concentrate the work in this way. The alternative would have meant many more weekend closures for our engineers to achieve the same thing, so this has been much more effective for them as well as for us.

“The work means we can provide a more reliable service that passengers deserve and can depend on.”

Steve White, Chief Operating Officer, Govia Thameslink Railway, said:  “We’re pleased to welcome back passengers on the Lewes to Seaford line and I apologise to anyone that has been inconvenienced during these essential works. I am grateful for their patience throughout this project. 

“Colleagues from Network Rail, Southern,  and our suppliers have been a credit to the rail industry completing a significant  amount of work  whilst the line was closed. Customers will now benefit for years to come as ageing assets have been replaced with a modern alternative.”

Highlights of the engineering work completed include:

  • Resignalling of the whole area involved the closure of signal boxes at Lewes, Newhaven Town and Newhaven Harbour and the removal of 18A points which were replaced with 40m of plain line track
  • Station improvements included platform and canopy repairs, repainting, deep-cleaning and general maintenance at Seaford, Bishopstone, Newhaven Town, Southease and Glynde.