I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to every passenger and commuter for putting up with the 8-day shut down of the Brighton-London mainline so brilliantly. I really do know how much of a pain it was for everyone.
I also have a confession because the shutdown was partly my fault!
Soon after I was elected I set up the all-party group of MP’s with Sir Nicholas Soames which brings together all MPs for region (all three of us Brighton and Hove MP’s are involved). We got together and acted very tightly as a group and out huge amounts of pressure on government to provide the money we desperately need in our hugely under-invested rail line.
Network Rail told us the most money they could spend in a year was £300m, and that’s the amount we got. It really shows that when you work together across parties when the need demands it remarkable things can happen!
But of course that means the money needs to be spent and because there is only one track it must be closed for maintenance.
I was in contact with Network Rail directors during the week to make sure things were running to plan and I got some facts and figures on the work which I’ll pass on now.
So, in that period 250 engineers were at work 24hrs a day to get the biggest upgrade programme for our network for 30 years. Highlights (as you can see I’m now a rail-nerd) include:
– Balcombe Tunnel was renovated and had its drainage systems totally overhauled. Did you know it was the previously the most flood-prone tunnel in the country?
– The junction by Balcombe was completely replaced and the layout improved and 800 metres of new track laid.
– The signalling between Three Bridges and Preston Park was replaced and upgraded with more modern and reliable equipment.
– Stations were deep-cleaned, platforms improved, and waiting rooms renovated.
I know that this was a real pain for people during this time. I used the service several times last week and experienced both the rail replacement buses and train journey via Littlehampton. The staff I met and experienced were really helpful despite the huge volumes of people they were catering for, thank you to them and the engineers for their hard work.
I know that many of you will have experienced challenges and lost work in this period. And I have been fighting for central government to step in and give compensation to season ticket holders, it’s outrageous that they pay for a service that is cancelled and have no compensation for it. Government have refused despite all three of our city’s MP fighting for it.
I really wanted you to know what’s been going on in this week. I had a tiny handful of emails about this despite so many of you having been inconvenienced which is why I wanted to thank you all for dealing with it so patiently.
There will be another five weekend closures in the months ahead, but once this work is complete and the driver training programme complete and the new timetable bedded in then perhaps, perhaps, we can then start to enjoy a more reliable service – a service that resembles that we deserve.
Despite everything else that’s going on please don’t think I’ve forgotten things like the trains, I’m fighting as hard as ever to get the improvements you need.