John Halsall, managing director, Southern region
We have suffered a landslip near East Grinstead station, which unfortunately means it’s not safe to run trains between East Grinstead and Lingfield.
We had already suffered a smaller landslip at the same site on December 28 last year, however we were able to continue running trains safely by introducing a 20mph speed restriction in that area.
Since then we’ve been monitoring the embankment closely and designing a number of options to carry out a long-term fix, while dealing with some very challenging environmental issues.
However, the recent severe weather as a result of Storm Ciara and heavy rain overnight yesterday (February 12) has beaten us to it, because the ground has started moving again and the embankment has got worse.
I know this kind of disruption is really frustrating for you, our passengers, but it’s a decision we’ve had to make for your safety.
The landslip was detected by our remote monitoring equipment, tiny sensors in the ground which detect movement and alert us. So there was never any danger to passengers and we were able to close the railway as soon as we got the alert.
As soon as we found out, we mobilised our geotechnical experts to site to assess the damage and see if it was possible to run a reduced service by using just one track, before a planned closure to fix the embankment.
However, we decided we could offer a better service to you by closing the line completely with replacement buses and some reduced train services.
Today trains are travelling to Oxted and Hurst Green, but buses replace trains between Hurst Green and East Grinstead.
From tomorrow though, (February 14) we will be able to run a two trains per hour shuttle service between Lingfield and London Victoria, all day.
During the peaks, we will be able to operate between 2 and 3 12-car Thameslink trains between Oxted and London Bridge.
The railway does need to be closed for a longer period to fix the landslip permanently. So this decision means we can get in and do the repairs properly, rather than carrying out a temporary fix and risking even further deterioration to the embankment that might force an even longer closure.
I’d love to be able to tell you when the railway will be open again so you can plan ahead, however it’s simply not possible at this stage. First, we need to assess the damage properly to see what kind of fix is required. Then we need to adjust our plan because this latest slip means our response needs to change, including how we mobilise contractors, resources, plant and machinery.
Once we have that plan, we can give you a more definitive timescale. But the bad news is we are looking at a long closure to complete this work.
That’s because it’s a complicated repair. Due to the remote location of the landslip, we need to build an 800-metre haulage road just to bring materials and machinery to the site.
To avoid destabilising the embankment even further, we’re not going to use the typical sheet pile wall – this is where steel beams are vibrated into the ground 10 metres deep. Instead we are looking to build a 2,000 tonne base at the bottom of the embankment, dug down 2.5 metres deep into the ground.
Then as we progress up the embankment, we will build a series of benches, much like the solution at Edenbridge (pictured), ready for more stone to be added later to rebuild the embankment and prevent further slippage. The bench-like formation allows materials to be ‘keyed’ into the existing slope, much like Lego blocks connect.
As soon as we have more information, we will update you on the timescales. Once again, I’m really sorry but I want to reassure everyone that we’re doing everything we can to put things right.