Thousands of passengers facing delays as Brighton Main Line to shut for nine days for £15m upgrade

ITV News Meridian's Tom Savides reports on what the closures will mean for commuters

People are being urged to plan ahead as the Brighton Main Line is due to shut for nine consecutive days to upgrade the line.

The railway between Three Bridges, Brighton and Lewes will close from Saturday 19 to Sunday 27 February. Engineers will rebuild a crucial junction, lay brand new track and shore up embankments to reduce the risk of landslips.

The upgrades will cost around £15m to complete, which includes the replacement of more than 1,500 metres of track.

Southern and Thameslink will operate alternative train and bus services, but commuters are being warned that many journeys will take considerably longer than normal.

Engineers are replacing track in the 1841-built Clayton Tunnel - the longest tunnel on the Brighton Main Line. Credit: Network Rail

The Brighton Main Line is one of the UK's busiest routes, with the infrastructure among the oldest used.

Network Rail bosses say the nine-day closure will mean the work can be done quicker.

Katie Frost, Network Rail’s Sussex route director, said: “Doing the work in a longer 9-day closure means we can get more work done, more quickly, avoiding 20 separate weekend, evening and bank holiday closures which would be even more disruptive to passengers, the people who live by the railway and the wider economy."

When asked why the work was not done during lockdown when less passengers were using trains, Ms Frost said: "Our staff have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, keeping the country moving - works of this scale aren't off the shelf.

"We have had these in the planning for a number of years. And so that's why, whilst we appreciate there is never a good time to shut the railway, doing it now and in this way we know is the least disruptive we could possibly make it."

Train and bus service details for 19-26 February

Owing to the ongoing impact of Covid on timetables, Southern and Thameslink are advising customers to plan now and re-check closer to the time of travel.

Brighton - Victoria trains will run via Littlehampton and Horsham (calling at Hove, Shoreham-by-Sea, Worthing, Angmering, Littlehampton, Horsham, Three Bridges, Gatwick Airport, East Croydon and Clapham Junction)

  • The Brighton – Hove shuttle will not run (the Brighton to London Victoria via Littlehampton service will replace this)

  • The Brighton – Lewes service will not run, but the Ore – London Victoria service will start/terminate at Brighton instead, calling additionally at Falmer, Moulsecoomb and London Road to maintain frequencies at these stations

  • The London Victoria – Southampton / Bognor Regis service will divide at Barnham, and make additional calls at Billingshurst, Pulborough and Arundel

  • The London Victoria – Portsmouth Harbour / Bognor Regis service will divide at Barnham, and make additional calls at Christ’s Hospital, Billingshurst, Pulborough, Amberley, Arundel and Ford

  • East Grinstead services will run as planned

  • For West Coastway stations, a Brighton – Bognor Regis service will call at all stations, with some revised times

Buses will run in both directions on the following routes:

  • Three Bridges – Balcombe – Haywards Heath – Wivelsfield – Burgess Hill – Hassocks – Preston Park – Brighton (some buses are planned to run non-stop between Three Bridges and Brighton but capacity will be limited)

  • Three Bridges – Haywards Heath – Cooksbridge ­– Lewes

  • Haywards Heath – Plumpton

  • Plumpton – Lewes

On weekdays (Monday 21 to Friday 25 February), additional bus services will run between:

  • Lewes - Cooksbridge and East Grinstead, for onwards train connections to/from London 

  • Hassocks and Three Bridges direct (peak times only)

  • Preston Park – Haywards Heath and Three Bridges (peak times only)

  • Seaford and Uckfield direct, for onward train connections to East Croydon (peak times only)

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