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Upgrade to rail network running 'four years late'

The biggest ever upgrade to the regions rail network will be up to four ye​a​r​s​ late. That's a​cording to a new report from Network Rail.

It means a promise to end the overcrowding crisis and speed up journey times has again been delayed.

It also means new trains, including the new Hitachi bullet trains, may be left sitting in the sidings.

The cost of the project has risen from around £800 million to £2.8 billion. Network Rail say the project is more complex and costly than it first thought.

Improvements at Great Western Railway were due from May of this year. But delays to electrify the line from Paddington to Oxford, Basingstoke, Newbury and Swindon means parts of the project​ won't happen until 2020.

Major improvements are also​ due on the lines from Salisbury to Portsmouth and Brighton. A new link from Reading to Heathrow may not be ready until 2024. Watchdogs say​ its a 'total shambles'.​

Here's our Transport Correspondent, Mike Pearse

Kent rail services closed for weeks after part of sea wall collapses

Rail services between Dover and Folkestone are likely to remain closed for more than a month after part of a sea wall collapsed.

Cracks in the wall were discovered on Christmas Eve - with severe damage caused to the railway line.

Work to repair 250 metres of track is expected to start shortly - but it's not yet known when the line will re-open. Nashreen Issa reports.

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Kent rail services closed for weeks after sea wall collapse

Engineers have been assessing the damnage Credit: ITV

Rail services between Dover and Folkestone are likely to remain closed for more than a month after part of a sea wall collapsed due to a high tide.

The cracks were discovered on Christmas Eve. Severe damage has been caused to a number of sections of the track. There are also sink holes two or three metres deep along the length of the wall.

Engineers have been assessing the damage, and work to repair 250 metres of track will start shortly. The sea wall will also need to be rebuilt.

It means a bus replacement service is running on Southeastern Trains between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central. Network Rail say it's not yet clear when the railway will re open.

Cracks in the sea wall at Dover stop rail services between two key Kent port stations

Network Rail say major work will need to be carried out to repair the track and the sea wall will also need to be rebuilt. Rail engineers are on site carrying out a full assessment of the damage. When this is complete Network Rail say they can provide a more accurate estimate about when the the railway will reopen.

A bus replacement service will run the one stop between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central and will remain so while repairs to the line take place.

The damage to the sea wall close to the line can be clearly seen Credit: Network Rail

Some Southeastern high speed trains will be diverted to run between Ashford International and Ramsgate via Canterbury West.

Passengers travelling between Dover and London will be able to use trains to London Victoria via Canterbury East. In addition, a service will run each day between Dover Priory and Ramsgate calling at all stations - Martin Mill, Deal, Walmer and Sandwich.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We know how important the railway is for people in this area and our orange army is working round the clock to establish what action needs to be taken, though we know the damage to the sea wall supporting the railway is severe."

Longer platforms, longer trains

Start of work to extend platform at Hever Stn Credit: Network Rail

The Tonbridge MP Tom Tugendhat has formally marked the start of a project that will extend twelve station platforms between Edenbridge and Uckfield. The project will allow the introduction of 10-coach trains that will reduce crowding on the Uckfield line and help to meet growing passenger demand. The new longer trains will increase capacity on the line during the morning peak by 50% from July 2016.

Network Rail will build the longer platforms and infrastructure, and Southern Railway will lease, refurbish and run the trains.

“I am pleased that the platform extensions on the Uckfield line are taking place and will be completed soon. This will mean that commuters and other rail users will be able to have a more comfortable journey as trains are able to take extra carriages. Work is now underway and this will be a huge benefit to the local community in providing a better train service. I look forward to the completion of the work early next year”.

– Tom Tugendhat MP

Parents say daughter's death at rail crossing 'could have been avoided'

Sacha Wheeler was hit by a train as she crossed tracks in Whitstable. Credit: ITV Meridian

The family of a Kent school girl killed as crossed a railway line have hit out at Network Rail for failing to make safety changes sooner.

An inquest heard today that 14-year-old Sacha Wheeler was listening to music on her earphones as she walked home for Sunday dinner when she was hit and killed by a train as she used the Glebe Way rail crossing in Whitstable in August 2014.

Sacha' s aunt made a statement outside the inquest on behalf of Sacha's parents Jim and Heather:

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Network Rail express 'sympathy' to family of schoolgirl killed on level crossing

Sacha Wheeler was hit by a train as she crossed tracks in Whitstable. Credit: ITV Meridian

Network Rail has expressed its sympathy to the family of a 14-year-old girl killed on a level crossing at in Kent.

14-year-old Sacha Wheeler was hit by a train as she tried to cross tracks at the Glebe Way pedestrian crossing in Whitstable.

The company said they are about to begin a public consultation about safety improvements at the crossing.

We would like to express our sympathy to the family and friends of Sacha Wheeler. Any death on the railway is a tragedy and the impact is felt not only by those who knew the person but also by the train driver and station staff and those who are involved in the aftermath. We want to do everything we can to stop this from happening. “We remain committed to working with the community to find a solution to closing Glebe Way level crossing. The constraints of the site mean that this will not be a simple exercise and we are currently exploring a number of options to replace the crossing. At the end of September we are meeting with Canterbury City Council to discuss those options, we will then be in a position to speak to the wider community to hear their views.

– Network Rail spokesperson

'My wife was begging me to breathe' - Rail worker hit by car trying to jump barriers at level crossing

Doug Caddell was hit by a car at a level crossing

A railway worker has been talking of the terrifying moment he was seriously injured as he closed a gate at a level crossing. Doug Caddell was hurt when a car - trying to jump the barriers - struck the gate, throwing him to the ground.

Network Rail have now started a campaign warning drivers and cyclists of the dangers at level crossings. Tom Savvides reports.

More talks to be held ahead of rail strike

Rail bosses have threatened legal action against one of the two unions planning a 24 hour national rail strike from 5pm on Bank Holiday Monday.

Network Rail said it would seek a High Court injunction against the TSSA union if it continued with plans to take part in the strike.

An NR spokeswoman said: “We have asked the TSSA to withdraw notice of their industrial action as we believe there are numerous defects in the ballot information.”

A senior source made clear that if the union refused to withdraw the action than NR would seek the Injunction to try and prevent it taking part in the walkout. The TSSA, with 3,000 members, is far smaller than the RMT which has 16,000 NR workers including key signalling staff who have the power on their own to halt the railways. Any legal action would not include the RMT and the strike is still scheduled to go ahead.

A second day of talks to try and avert the strike was today taking place at Acas, the conciliation service. If any injunction were successful it would stop TSSA members, which also include senior signal technicians, from taking part in the strike – but a walkout by RMT members would still bring the majority of the national rail network, including most London commuter routes, to a standstill.

The dispute is over pay and working conditions. NR has offered pay increases of RPI for 2016, 2017 and 2018. For this year there would be a £500 non-consolidated lump sum payment – a no compulsory redundancy commitment would be extended until the end of next year.

The RMT has also ordered a 48 hour overtime ban covering all of Bank Holiday Monday and the Tuesday and which would add to the disruption. The union has refused to rule out further strikes if agreement is not reached.

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