Over £1.8 billion spent across the south on improvements with passengers returning to the railway more than 18 months after the first lockdown, Network Rail’s Southern region says “welcome back”

Network Rail’s Southern region has invested over £1.8 billion in the railway to support the country in its mission to ‘build back better’ so passengers can feel confident and safe when they return to travelling by train.

Even at the height of the pandemic, Network Rail was working to keep trains running for critical workers, such as NHS staff, as well as making sure thousands of tonnes of vital goods, like food, fuel and medical supplies, were transported by freight trains every day.

Since March 2020, over £660 million in Kent, £643m in Sussex and £580 million in Wessex has been invested on maintaining and upgrading the railway.

Some of the improvements have included:

  • Upgrades to: Hither Green, Sandwich, Slade Green, Guildford, Feltham and Grove Park stations
  • Improvements to the signalling and track between Balham and Clapham, around Hither Green and on the Arun Valley line in Sussex
  • Rebuilding of the railway in the Southampton docks area to allow longer freight trains to run

John Halsall, Network Rail Southern region managing director, said: “We’re really excited to welcome more passengers back to the railway now that the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

“I want to pay tribute to the thousands of Network Rail and train operator colleagues who have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to keep the country moving during this incredibly challenging time.

“Our passengers deserve to travel with confidence, so we’ve been working hard to keep you safe with enhanced cleaning and new one-way systems to avoid crowding, and we’re asking passengers to continue to wear face coverings in crowded spaces out of respect to others.”

Chris Fowler, customer services director for Southern, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming customers back on board. Over the past year, our colleagues have worked hard to keep services running to support key workers and essential travel.

“In addition, we’ve also continued to carry out our multi-million-pound, network-wide station improvement programme. Involving more than 1,000 projects and 250 stations – we’re confident that returning customers will enjoy a better station experience.”

Claire Mann, managing director of South Western Railway, said: “It’s great news that Network Rail has made such good progress in improving the infrastructure that our customers rely on every day.

“This work complements the enhancements that we at South Western Railway have made over the last 18 months, including faster wi-fi, upgraded station facilities and accessibility improvements – to name just a few.

“Improving our railway is a process rather than an event, and we are continually working to improve our services – including by learning from our mistakes when things go wrong.”

David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, said: “Working together with Network Rail we’ve continued to invest in the railway across Kent, East Sussex and South East London in the areas that really matter, not least in enhancing accessibility and ensuring that journeys are more reliable.

“The last eighteen months have not been without challenges, but we continue to listen and to respond to continue to do more to improve the journey experience of our passengers.”

Case study

The railway’s own key workers, including signallers and maintenance teams, worked day in day out in the national effort to keep the rail network open and support the country through this challenging time.

One of those was Adam Kotulecki, a senior project manager working in Southampton on the freight train lengthening project. He said: “We had over 600 employees coming into the site during the project.

“It was of paramount importance that we not only kept colleagues safe by using social distancing, but their loved ones safe too. A lot of our staff stayed down on the site – many lived hundreds of miles away – so they could dedicate and focus on the work, and not put their loved ones in any danger.

“For nine months, I moved out of my house and didn’t get to see my own family – even my wedding was cancelled due to the pandemic. My life needed to change, and I was one hundred per cent committed to my job and the successful delivery of the project.

“We hope that when passengers come back, they will see a more reliable network.”

Photo credit: Network Rail

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