A complete blockade of the railway line between Uckfield and Crowborough in the new year will be “short-term pain for long-term gain”, Network Rail said.
The company unveiled details of the project yesterday (July 20) to extend platforms at all stations between Uckfield and Edenbridge Town to accommodate ten-carriage trains.
The line to Crowborough will be closed between January 4 and February 20. There will be off-peak closures during November and again in March and April next year. See below for details.
During the line closures, a comprehensive rail replacement bus service will operate along the line connecting with trains at Oxted during the off-peak closures, and Crowborough during the all-day closure.
Details are still being formulated by Southern, as are ticketing arrangements which could apply on other lines.
The platform extension project is designed to reduce over-crowding on the line and meet growing passenger demand.
Some services at the morning peak will have 50 per cent more capacity.
Network Rail Project Manager, Craig Melhuish, said: “By extending the platforms we will be able to run longer trains that will reduce congestion and improve the daily commute for thousands of people.
Eight of the 12 platforms need to be doubled in length, which is a considerable amount of work when compared with many other platform extensions projects previously delivered on the network.
Network Rail will begin setting up compounds at some stations from next month with preparations beginning shortly after.
Permanent works will start in September although it will be January before work begins at Uckfield.
The stations will be completed on a staggered basis between February and July next year.
Mr Melhuish added: “Where possible we have planned the project to not affect peak-time services, therefore reducing the impact on those that use the line on a daily basis.
“A staggered approach to the project will mean that it will only affect areas when and where the specific works are taking place.
Some night work will bee necessary
“It will mean the project is delivered as soon as practically possible with the least amount of people disrupted.”
Network Rail said night work would be unavoidable, although the noisiest works would be in the day time.
Southern will be using its website to tell passengers what is happening, along with posters, social media and leaflets.
Closure of the line will allow Network Rail to carry out infrastructure work which might have necessitated disruption at another time.
Major work in the Crowborough tunnel
Drainage in 1km of Crowborough Tunnel will be replaced while engineers have possession of the route.
There will also be work on the footbridge at Eridge.
Other Network Rail departments have been told of the project in case they wish to align projects with the closure.
Engineers do not believe trains will be disrupted during the day time closures.
They said the works do not involve the line itself and handing the route back to Southern would only involve downing tools and moving away from the site.
We talk to the project manager for platform extension works
At Uckfield the platform will be extended 56m at the London end. Part of the existing car park will be used for some storage, although by this time the new station car park will be open. The spaces for disabled people in the existing car park would be unaffected.
The Buxted platform will be extended by 115m at the London end.
Both platforms at Crowborough will be extended by 87m in the Uckfield
Below is a short video where Dave Hennigar, of Bam Nuttall, the project engineers talks about Uckfield.
Questions and answers
When will rail services be disrupted?
As reported by UckfieldNews.com yesterday, the closures will come in three phases.
November 2 to 25, Monday to Friday between 09.20 and 16.40, the line will be closed between Uckfield and Hurst Green, with changes to last trains Monday to Thursday. It is expected the 08.34 from Uckfield will run with the first direct train back the 16.08 from London Bridge.
January 4 to February 20, 2016, the line will be closed between Crowborough and Uckfield
Update on Saturday, July 25: Another date been changed. A closure will now take place between February 29 and March 25. Details here:
February 29 – March 25: Monday to Friday between 0920 and 1640 – The line will be closed between Hurst Green and Uckfield, with changes to last trains Monday to Thursday
There will be weekend closures from Hurst Green to Uckfield at various points between August and May.
This final period of closures was previously due to last from March 14 to April 9, 2016.
There will be weekend closures between Uckfield and Hurst Green at various points between August and May.
What’s happened to the extra coaches from Scotland?
Twelve carriages suitable for use on the Uckfield Line were transferred to Southern earlier this year.
They are going to need extensive works before they can be brought into use, a spokesman for rail operator Southern said.
They are not compatible with the existing rolling stock, fail to meet the standards required by Southern and need major engineering upgrades.
The spokesman believed that work on the carriages had yet to begin.
Ten-carriage trains cannot run until all the platforms have been lengthened.
Why must the platforms be lengthened?
Platforms all along the Uckfield Line are to be lengthened to accommodate ten-carriage trains to meet the burgeoning demand for rail travel.
On occasions, passengers from Crowborough and beyond have to stand at least all the way to East Croydon.
Peak trains are also over-crowded, leading to some commuters labelling them dangerous. Sometimes, passengers are left on the platform when no more people are able to board.
Where can I find out more?
A drop-in session will be held at the Civic Centre on July 29 between 4 and 8pm.
The original plan revealed earlier in the new year was to access the Uckfield platform site was via the Hempstead Meadows Nature Reserve. After much discussion, this was ruled out by Uckfield Town Council, owner of the reserve.
See story here
Other ideas which Network Rail has ruled out were accessing the platform via Mill Lane, although there were concerns about nearby residents with heavy construction equipment passing their doors. There were also worries about pedestrians, business access the parked cars.
Access via Alexandra Road was deemed unsuitable as was a much longer route via the Bird-in-Eye industrial estate, which included river crossings.