Mike Gibson, Public Affairs Manager at southeastern has provided the following update on continued engineering works on the Hastings Line.
“At Kent County Council’s recent rail summit in Maidstone, a number of stakeholders queried the purpose of the late night engineering works on the Hastings Line being carried out by Network Rail under its Industry Access Programme on Monday and Tuesday nights.
In brief, the works are to allow Network Rail more time, outside of the traditional overnight and weekend slots, to carry out essential maintenance, repair and renewal works. As a result, trains that leave London and Hastings after 2100 on Mondays and Tuesdays have been replaced by buses between Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Wadhurst. The scheme is now going to continue at least until December this year.
Since Network Rail introduced the scheme it has not had to apply for any emergency access – which often means unexpected changes to train times and cancellations for our passengers – and Network Rail has seen an improvement in the quality as well as the amount of work it has been able to achieve.
As well as routine maintenance work, Network Rail has installed new LED signals, upgraded points, upgraded some supplementary “banner” signals, improved conductor-rail heating, replaced conductor-rail equipment such as insulators, worked on improving the track bed, improved drainage by clearing culverts and digging out wet track bed, and also hand grinding the rails on sets of points to make sure they are in good condition.
In addition, it has been able to grind almost 10 miles of track on the route, which extends the life of the rail, prevents defects and improves the ride for passengers. Network Rail has also been able to send the stone blower over almost 4 miles of track, which makes the track quality better and again, provides passengers with a better-quality ride.
From a staffing perspective, it is less pressured, which means much-enhanced safety and improved quality of work.
In other areas where Network Rail has used this system of extended access, we (Southeastern) have seen improvements in performance.
- On the Ashford to Minster line, where this system has been in place for more than a year, the number of trains delayed by more than five minutes dropped by 66.90 per cent.
- On the line between Faversham and Ramsgate, we saw the number of trains later than five minutes drop by 25.5 per cent.
From these statistics, we are hopeful that we can improve performance on the Hastings Line and have seen performance rise each period from December to April.
None of this is any consolation to the passengers who are affected, but the works do not begin until after 9.00PM by which time the majority of commuters will have arrived home.
We are obviously sorry for the inconvenience caused to those in your area who nay either be working late or returning from an evening out, but unfortunately, there is never an ideal time to carry out engineering work on the railway as someone will always be adversely affected. However we and Network rail are confident that this will plan keep the railway open as long as possible, while also improving journeys for everybody.”