Nine ways we’re upgrading the South East

Published 6 February 2020 | Average read time
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Vital improvements to the railway in Kent were among our huge list of projects across Britain during the festive season.

They came amid a more than £1.25bn investment in Kent and South East London over the next five years to provide better journeys with fewer delays.

The broader programme involves upgrades to signalling, track, structures, embankments, stations and depots for passengers in Kent and South East London.

What did we do over Christmas and New Year?

We replaced track and three sets of old switches and crossings – the movable rails that allow trains to switch tracks, at Ashford International station:

Our teams improved track drainage, helping to maintain track quality and reduce delays from track faults well into the future.

We also upgraded the third rail, which provides power to trains, and points – the mechanical equipment that moves switches and crossings. 

It will mean more reliable journeys for passengers, including those travelling to and from London King’s Cross and London St Pancras International.

Shaun King, interim Kent Route director at Network Rail, said in October: “Over the next five years we’re doing more work to improve reliability on the Kent network than ever before, addressing decades of under-investment in the region’s railway. 

“This work to install new track, drainage and switches and crossings at Ashford will give passengers using this section of railway smoother, more reliable journeys with fewer delays for decades to come.”

Here are nine ways we’ll upgrade Kent in the next five years:

  • 429km of new track, at a cost of more than £201m
  • £162m on new signalling equipment, reducing faults and delays for passengers
  • £21.4m to improve safety at level crossings
  • 560 new switches and crossings, junctions where trains switch tracks, at a cost of £170m
  • £170m on replacing or refurbishing our structures, including 100 under-bridges, 12 over-bridges, 23 footbridges and one tunnel
  • Strengthen nine other structures, so they can carry more trains and more passengers at the same time
  • 90km of new fencing to prevent trespass at a cost of £2.1m
  • Clear overgrown vegetation across 51km of railway to prevent seasonal delays caused fallen leaves and trees
  • We’ll also introduce traffic and incident management technology at our control centres. This will help our signallers manage the service more efficiently and recover from disruptive incidents faster.

Major projects include:

Bexleyheath line improvement

A nine-day closure, between Barnehurst and Kidbrooke, from Saturday 15 to Sunday 23 February, for a major work to protect passengers from landslips.

Engineers will remove thousands of tonnes of soil to reduce the incline of the cutting and build retaining walls with steel beams hammered six metres into the ground.

The work will protect the railway line from landslips for 120 years. Working with Southeastern, we will keep passengers moving by increasing services on other lines.

Hither Green area signalling and track upgrade

We’re working on a major £90m investment in a new signalling system from Hither Green to New Eltham, Elmstead Woods and Bromley North, as well as upgrades to track and junctions in the area.

Most of the work will take place from September 2019 to April 2020. The new signalling system will be brought into use over a four-day closure of the railway at Easter, from 10 April to 13 April.

Some services will be amended, diverted or cancelled at weekends and bank holidays but trains will still run. Passengers are advised to plan and check with their train operator before they travel.