RAIL passengers are bracing themselves for weeks of delays and winter misery with the Hastings to Ashford line closing down from this Monday.
There will be no trains running on this route for nine weeks as work to repair the Ore Tunnel gets underway.
It will mean long journeys for commuters travelling to London but rail bosses say the work is part of a package of improvements that will lead to faster, more reliable journeys in the future.
The nine-week programme centres on essential maintenance work in Ore tunnel to improve the drainage and repair lining to the inside of the structure to prevent water seeping through.
In order to take full advantage of the track closure, Network Rail engineers have re-scheduled a wide range of other improvement works to avoid further disruption in the future and allow better services for passengers in the years to come. These include:
* Renewing the track through the tunnel and around the Ore area; three quarters of a mile of track between Rye and Winchelsea; and around one mile of track between Ashford and Ham Street. This will result in old, noisy jointed track being replaced with smooth continuous rails.
* Refurbishment of three sets of points to improve reliability.
* Replacement of rail-over-road bridges at Doleham and Three Oaks
* Surveys and maintenance of an embankment between Ashford and Ham Street
* Maintenance of 18 bridges and culverts between Ashford and Hastings
* Track improvements (tamping) to enable the line speed to be increased in the future between Rye and Hastings
Fiona Taylor, from Network Rail, said: “The maintenance work in Ore tunnel is vital for us to continue running a safe and reliable railway.
“We appreciate the impact this will have on passengers’ journeys which is why we have programmed so much other work to be done at the same time to reduce the amount of potential disruption in the future.
“There is never an ideal time to carry out this scale of work and after seeking the views of community and business representatives we were keen to avoid the summer months which are so important for the local economy.
“We thank passengers in advance for their patience while we carry out this important work and are confident the improvements we are making are the first step towards cutting journey times which is great news for passengers in the long term.”
Southern has been working with Network Rail, highways and local authorities to put a rail replacement bus and taxi service in place while the improvements are made. Work is scheduled for completion on March 9.
The rail replacement bus and taxi timetable is available for download and printing from this link
Southern is making a special offer on the price of fares for passengers who will be affected by the improvement work to Ore tunnel between Hastings and Ashford International station - click here for info.