More reliable, more frequent and faster services on the Brighton Main Line and its branches


The Brighton Main Line and its branch lines, are among the busiest and most congested in the country, carrying 1,700 trains and 300,000 passengers every weekday.

Passengers using the Brighton Main Line benefit from fast and frequent services to a wide range of destinations, but in recent years reliability has been below what customers deserve, and rising passenger numbers have led to overcrowding on some services.

Historic under investment and the rebuild of London Bridge have contributed to poor service in recent years. However, complex railway layout and bottlenecks, particularly at Croydon, mean that without significant investment, performance will not improve to acceptable levels.  It also means that we won’t be able to run the additional trains needed to meet future passenger demand.

Comparison in delays between Brighton main line and South west main line

The performance challenge

The bottlenecks on the line, particularly at Croydon, magnify the impact of even the most minor incident or delay along the line, making it much harder to get trains back on time when things go wrong. 

This is why passengers on the Brighton Main Line experience 60% more knock-on delays when an incident occurs compared to the South West Main Line, which has similar passenger numbers and service frequencies.

Passenger growth from 2005, 2017 and prediction for early 2030s

The capacity challenge

Passenger numbers on the Brighton Main Line have more than doubled since the year 2000 with trains on this part of the network regularly featuring in lists of the nation’s most crowded services.

The Croydon bottleneck means there is no capacity to run extra trains to cope with forecast passenger growth on the line, leading to even more overcrowding in the years ahead, unless action is taken.

Our strategy

Upgrading the Brighton Main Line

Despite being one of the busiest and most congested routes in the country, the infrastructure on the line is some of the oldest.

Over 2018/19, we invested £67m to upgrade infrastructure and tackle delay hotspots as part of the Brighton Main Line Improvement Project. This is expected to reduce delays by up to 15%.

We are also delivering further enhancements and developing plans for additional improvements across the network, these include:

  • Resignalling plans, including digital “traffic management,” to help us regulate trains and recover from incidents more quickly.
  • Significant investment over the next five years to renew and maintain the existing railway infrastructure.
  • Major Gatwick Airport station upgrade.

Unblocking the Croydon bottleneck – The Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme (CARS)

The Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme (CARS) is the largest and most complex part of our longer-term Brighton Main Line upgrade proposals.  CARS would remove the most challenging bottleneck on Britain’s railway network; our proposals consist of the following:

  • An expanded and enhanced East Croydon station
  • ‘Selhurst Triangle’ track remodelling
  • Lower Addiscombe Road/Windmill Bridge reconstruction
  • Norwood Junction station improvements

East Croydon to Selhurst Junction Capacity Enhancement Scheme

Where our proposals require work to take place outside the railway boundary we need to submit a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) application. These proposals are legally referred to as East Croydon to Selhurst Junction Capacity Enhancement Scheme (the Scheme). These proposals are the subject of ongoing consultation with residents and stakeholders in Croydon and passengers and businesses from across the region.

Next steps

To deliver our longer-term Brighton Main Line upgrade proposals we need funding. Over the months and years ahead we will continue to make the case for investment in the Brighton Main Line railway and consult with passengers, local people and businesses as we prepare a TWAO application for the elements of the Scheme that require work to take place outside the railway boundary.

Completed projects

During 2019, We replaced the old signalling between Lewes and Seaford with more reliable technology to reduce delays for passengers. This work replaced a system controlled from three signal boxes that dated back to 1879. The new signalling technology at Lewes is controlled from the state-of-the-art rail operating centre at Three Bridges, delivering a more reliable service with fewer delays for passengers.

We also carried out improvement work across the stations affected.

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.

In Autumn 2019 we upgraded the railway between Barnham, Chichester and Havant

Following the 9-day line closure, engineers worked over three further weekends to replace track between Barnham and Havant including at several level crossings. These include Basin Road, Stockbridge Road, Brook Lane and Bosham.

The work will improve the reliability of rail services on the line and the reliability of the level crossings, reducing delays for rail passengers and motorists. We also took the opportunity to carry out improvement work across the stations affected.

Contact us

For more information on our proposals you can email us at

You can also visit our contact us page or call our 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or you can contact us on Twitter at @NetworkRailSE

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