Greater Brighton chiefs have welcomed a pledge for widespread investment in the region’s creaking rail infrastructure with a £2 billion, 12-year plan to put more trains on the mainline to London.
Historic under-investment, punctuality problems and capacity issues means that tens of thousands of people have been affected by almost daily below-par services on the Brighton Main Line in recent years.
The impact has been severe, with residents, companies and organisations across the City Region all suffering due to almost-daily incidents of delays and cancellations.
In a presentation to the Greater Brighton Economic Board, Network Rail’s Strategy and Planning Director for the South, Rupert Walker, said it was committed to improving the situation for Greater Brighton residents in the immediate future.
Looking longer term, the body also highlighted how it planned to increase funding by 22 per cent in the south east – with the main focus on making major changes to the Croydon ‘bottleneck’.
The result, according to Network Rail, will be improved reliability, quicker journeys and more services. In turn, this could see local regeneration and regional economic growth.
Mr Walker said: “We cannot deliver a sustainable step-change in performance and capacity without a long term solution being implemented.”
The presentation showed that every day more than 300,000 passengers and 1,700 trains pass through the Croydon area on the Brighton Main Line – more than all the lines connecting London with the Midlands, the North and Scotland put together.
In the presentation, Mr Walker admitted that performance on the main line had not been where it should be.
In the short-term, Network Rail said it was making a renewed focus on day-to-day operations, with a new dedicated team created at London Victoria. A further £200 million is also being invested in infrastructure improvements, such as signalling, tunnels and track at key junctions.
In the medium term, the body said it was focussed on improving capacity, with a rebuilt concourse at Gatwick on the priority list.
But Network Rail said the long-running issues and future demand for rail travel could only be completely dealt with the vast improvement to the ‘bottleneck’ at Selhurst Junction. Central to this will be a rebuilt eight-platform East Croydon station, grade separation and new flyovers. The plan will allow for 3,600 more seats to be carried through East Croydon each peak hour although the departure stations for these new services have yet to be decided.
A public consultation on the plans begins on 5th November 2018 with work potentially starting in 2023. The entire scheme scheduled to be completed by 2030 subject to funding.
Councillor Garry Wall, Chairman of Greater Brighton Economic Board, said: “Residents and businesses across the Greater Brighton area have been calling for investment in the Brighton main line for years. Not only is it the quickest route to London but it also connects Gatwick to the whole of the south east and beyond – this means it has the potential for supporting growth in the whole of the region”
“I’m therefore pleased to see that Network Rail have long-term plans to improve connectivity and capacity on this key arterial route. We also welcome the pledge to improve punctuality in the short-term and will be monitoring the situation closely to prevent any further long-term damage to our vibrant regional economy.”