Sussex and Surrey passengers reminded to check before travelling over the festive period as Network Rail takes to the tracks for major railway upgrades
Passengers are advised to check before travelling by train over the Christmas and New Year period as Network Rail carries out a major reliability upgrade that will close London Victoria to Southern and Gatwick Express services and alter services on the railway west of Brighton.
The work is part of a £16m programme of improvements to the south east’s rail network taking place this festive period, with more than 1,600 engineers working round-the-clock on a host of projects to provide a better, more reliable railway for the hundreds of thousands of people who use the region’s railway each day. The work includes renewing outdated track and signalling, upgrading signalling systems, refurbishing and replacing footbridges and installing new drainage to prevent flooding during severe weather.
By far the biggest piece of work over the festive period is the complete replacement of one of the busiest junctions on the network at Battersea Pier on the approach to London Victoria. More than 240,000 people pass through this area every day – but the mid-1970s infrastructure needs replacing to provide a reliable service to those passengers for the next 35 years.
The work means platforms 9 to 19 will be closed at London Victoria station from 1:05am on Sunday, 23 December until 4am on Wednesday, 2 January, with no trains between the station and Clapham Junction.
Most Southern trains will be rerouted to and from London Bridge. There will be no Gatwick Express trains but Southern and Thameslink services for Gatwick Airport will run to and from other central London stations, including London Blackfriars and London Bridge. Southern will operate a reduced service to Clapham Junction with a limited bus service replacing trains for local journeys between Clapham Junction, Battersea Park and London Victoria.
Clapham Junction is expected to be very busy and passengers should avoid this station if possible. Tickets will be accepted on advertised alternative routes, including London Underground between Balham and Victoria and between London Bridge/Blackfriars and Victoria.
Elsewhere, a major signalling upgrade will also take place on the West Coastway between Brighton and Littlehampton during the weekend before Christmas, with 1980s technology used to control the safe movement of trains and almost a dozen level crossings replaced with a more modern system.
The work means trains will be replaced by buses on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 December. Network Rail is using the planned closure to install a new footbridge at Fishersgate station, replacing the old structure which will be removed at the same time. The new bridge will be transported to site by rail from Hove station in sections before being craned into place.
John Halsall, Network Rail’s South East route managing director, said: “This Christmas we’re continuing with major parts of our Railway Upgrade Plan in the south east, aimed at providing a better, more reliable railway to the growing number of people who travel by rail.
“The work we’re doing at Battersea and on the coastal route in West Sussex are critical pieces of the jigsaw to help us provide the infrastructure passengers deserve, reducing delays and boosting reliability.
“Of course, we know it’s never a good time to close the railway but doing nothing is not an option either. Doing the work over the Christmas holidays, when the railway is significantly quieter than usual, means we can minimise overall disruption to passengers.”
Southern and Gatwick Express Passenger Services Director Angie Doll said: “Passengers need to be aware of this essential work which closes London Victoria to our services from Sunday, 23 December, all the way through to Wednesday, 2 January.
“We will be working very hard to keep passengers moving to and from Gatwick Airport and the capital with many services diverted into London Bridge and London Blackfriars but there will be no Gatwick Express service and fewer Southern trains than normal.
“Passengers should check before they travel.”
A breakdown of how journeys will be affected by improvement work across Britain over the Christmas and New Year period can be found by visiting nationalrail.co.uk/christmas