Passengers have been thanked for their patience after a busy programme of improvement work took place across the south east over the last two weeks.
Network Rail spent almost £11m over the holiday period as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan, with more than 2,600 staff working hard round-the-clock out on the tracks in the south east and 24,000 across the country.
This Christmas, the Thameslink Programme brought the first rails through the Bermondsey Dive Under into use. Similar to a motorway underpass, the Bermondsey Dive Under is a brand new railway junction that will untangle the tracks on the eastern approach to London Bridge station.
Currently, as trains from Sussex and Kent approach London Bridge, the railway lines intersect at a series of junctions, causing congestion and creating delays. The new line, which will be used by Southern trains, offers a glimpse of the future.
From 2018, the new junction will allow Southeastern trains travelling from Kent to ‘dive under’ the Sussex lines used by Southern and Thameslink trains, relieving the bottleneck of trains and improving the travel experience for millions of passengers travelling to and through the landmark new station.
Elsewhere, Network Rail’s teams of engineers worked across the south east for an incredible 28,000 hours altogether to improve the railway that 510 million passenger journeys rely on each year. The projects, which were completed successfully and on time, included laying new drains deep underground in Sevenoaks Tunnel, replacing a worn-out junction at New Cross, repairing a bridge at Lewisham, putting in a new bridge span at Purley, laying new rail at St John’s in south east London, and refurbishing several sets of points, which allow trains to cross from one track to another, between Swanley and Bickley.
Network Rail South East route managing director, John Halsall, said: “We appreciate the patience shown by passengers while we continued our Railway Upgrade Plan over Christmas and the New Year.
“The hard work by our teams across the south east will make a real difference to our passengers, especially those who will use the Bermondsey Dive Under which will allow more trains to run while reducing delays on this busy stretch of railway.
“It is a privilege to do the job that we do and we are absolutely focussed on continuing to work hard to improve our railway.”
Southeastern Managing Director David Statham said: “I would like to thank our passengers for their patience over the festive period when Network Rail carried out vital improvement work.
“There is no ideal time to carry out major work and we appreciate this can disrupt people’s journeys, but this can only realistically be done during holiday periods, when fewer people travel.
“Massive investment is being made in our railways so we can improve journeys and secure increased rail capacity for the future. We encourage our passengers to always check before they travel at weekends as improvement work continues to take place.”
Southern Chief Operating Officer Nick Brown said: “Investment in the railway is vital to improving services for our passengers and we’re pleased to see this latest element of the Thameslink Programme completed. In 2018, it will give Thameslink services a clear run into London Bridge, reducing delays and enabling the 24 train-per-hour high intensity service between Blackfriars and St Pancras.”