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Published on : Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Since December, engineers have been working on the line between Tonbridge and Wadhurst on a variety of improvements, from installing new signals to improving the condition of the conductor rail equipment – which provides power to trains. In addition, work has been carried out to improve the reliability of points, which allow trains to move from one set of tracks to another, and improvements to the track bed which the railway sits on.
The continuing changes to train services on Monday and Tuesday late evenings mean that trains which leave London and Hastings after 9pm on those days will be replaced by buses for the parts of their journeys between Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Wadhurst.
Network Rail’s area director Paul Rutter said: “We are always working to improve the reliability of the railway as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan and by continuing this scheme, we can continue to tackle some of the root causes of delays for passengers.
“Our teams are out every night of the week but this extended access on Mondays and Tuesdays means they are able to do more work. The work they have been able to do so far this year has seen new signalling equipment installed and vital maintenance carried out on some of our most important equipment, including the power supply.
“On top of that, as a result of having more access during the week we have been able to carry out large quantities of work to improve the quality of the track. Poor quality track means delays, speed restrictions and an uncomfortable ride for passengers – something we are able to avoid through this kind of preventative maintenance.
“Having said all that, there is no good time to do this work and it is almost impossible to do so without impacting on passengers – however I’m confident that this work will help us to keep the railway open as long as possible, while also improving journeys for everybody.”
This form of extended access engineering work has been running for more than a year on two other lines in Kent: from Ashford to Minster and Faversham to Ramsgate. Both these lines saw a big improvement in reliability over 12 months – by more than 25 per cent – and while it is too early to say how much the Tunbridge Wells line’s reliability will improve , the signs are good.
Richard Dean, train services director at Southeastern, said: “Closing the railway at this time obviously does affect our passengers, but it is important that this is carried out in order to improve and maintain the track and signalling.
“Network Rail carries out this work on Monday and Tuesday evenings to avoid closing the line at weekends. This way it impacts far less passengers and still allows enough time for the work to be completed.”