Consultation announced on ‘transformational’ plan to remove Britain’s worst railway bottleneck and provide a step-change in reliability
People across the south east of England will be able to have their say on proposals for a major railway upgrade to improve punctuality, speed up journey times and enable more trains to run on one of the country’s busiest main lines.
Network Rail has today announced that a public consultation will take place throughout November and December on proposals to remove the notorious ‘Croydon bottleneck’ which regularly causes delays and disruption to up to 300,000 passengers who travel on the Brighton Main Line and its branches each day.
The Croydon area is by far the busiest and most congested part of Britain’s rail network, with 30% more passengers and trains passing through it each day than London Euston and King’s Cross stations combined. Train punctuality on the Brighton Main Line is the lowest of any major route as the bottleneck magnifies the impact of even the most minor incident or delay.
If approved, the scheme would see a see additional tracks constructed in the Croydon area, extra platforms at an expanded and modernised East Croydon station and a series of new railway flyovers to replace the current ‘spaghetti junction’ near the station where lines from the south coast, Sussex and Surrey meet those to and from London Victoria, London Bridge and beyond.
The upgrade proposals are a key part of Network Rail’s long-term strategy to ensure that the rail network can continue to support and drive UK economic growth, providing reliable, fast and frequent services for the increasing numbers of people predicted to travel by rail.
John Halsall, Network Rail route managing director for the South East, said: “Removing the Croydon bottleneck is the only practical way to provide the step-change in reliability and capacity that passengers and businesses in Sussex so desperately want to see.
“For too long, train performance on the Brighton Main Line has been below the level that commuters and other passengers expect and deserve. While a number of factors have contributed to these issues in recent years, the basic layout of our railway through the Croydon area and the bottleneck it creates means reliability won’t ever improve to acceptable levels without significant changes.
“We want as many people as possible to take part in this consultation, either online or at one of our events, so we can make sure our proposal delivers a genuine transformation in rail services for passengers, businesses and communities in one of the most economically important parts of the country.”
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council, said: “Croydon Council has long been campaigning for more reliable rail services connecting Croydon with central London, the south coast and Gatwick Airport. We welcome the plans to invest in East Croydon station and the proposals are ‘must have’ to help us in our ambition to be London’s biggest growth borough.
“We’re well aware of the impact delays and cancellations can have on people living and working in our borough, as well as those visiting. We look forward to seeing the proposals and would encourage residents and businesses to join us in getting involved in the consultation.”
Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive at Coast to Capital Local Economic Partnership, said: “Promoting better transport and mobility is identified as a priority for investment in our Strategic Economic Plan ‘Gatwick 360’. Our ongoing area-wide Brighton mainline campaign aims to bring investment and long-term increases in railway capacity on the line which links our whole area and facilitates wider economic growth. The Croydon area remodelling scheme is critical to the success of this and we support the proposals. We continue to urge local businesses to join our Brighton Mainline Alliance and respond to the consultation.”
Angie Doll, Passenger Services Director for Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “Punctuality on Southern was, recently, the best it had been for five years and services on Thameslink are back on track too. However, a major investment of this scale is vital to improve services further for passengers and to future-proof this most-congested route.”
A six-week public consultation period will take place from 5 November to 17 December 2018 to give passengers, businesses and members of the public the opportunity to have their say on the proposals. They can do so online at networkrail.co.uk/croydon or by completing a questionnaire which will be handed out at stations along the Brighton Main Line including Brighton, Gatwick Airport, East Croydon, London Bridge and London Victoria.
Network Rail will also be hosting a series of consultation events at locations across the Croydon area from 6-22 November to enable the local community to view the proposals and talk to the project team.
The proposals for Croydon form a key part of Network Rail’s long-term strategy to improve performance on the Brighton Main Line and its branches. As part of a £300m government-funded programme to tackle delay hotspots and boost rail reliability in the South East, Network Rail is already carrying out a major project to renew and upgrade tracks and signalling on the southern end of the Brighton Main Line. Work is taking place at weekends as well as during a nine-day blockade in February 2019. Other ongoing improvements to the line include power supply upgrades across Sussex to allow longer and more frequent trains to run in the future.