After a nine-day line closure while £10m of major improvement work took place, the railway between Maidstone East and Ashford International reopened to passengers this morning (Monday).
Network Rail and contractors BAM have been repairing and reinforcing the steep sides of a cutting near Bearsted, which was prone to landslips and rock falls. A rock fall even took place while the work was ongoing, underlying the importance of the project.
In addition, Network Rail used the time the line was closed to carry out essential maintenance, such as painting, at stations along the line and to improve the electrical supply to trains along the route, laying new cables.
Network Rail’s route director for Kent, Fiona Taylor, said: “This was a massive job for us and for our neighbours and passengers and we really appreciate their patience. The section of line between Maidstone East and Bearsted was a big worry, with two rock falls in recent years and another one last week. The work we’ve done over the past nine days has helped make it much safer.
“We don’t get to close railways very often, so we took advantage of the time to do lots of other work, from laying new cables to painting bridges, railings and roofs, and even jet washing platforms.
“We’ve got a bit more to do in the coming weeks, so our neighbours will still see us around, but passengers will be pleased to hear that trains are running again”.
Southeastern Train Services Director, Scott Brightwell, said: “I want to say a big thank you to all our passengers for bearing with us while this essential repair work was carried out.
“Reducing the risk of landslips across our network is an important part of providing a reliable service. We also took the opportunity to make some station improvements while the line was closed and I hope our customers are pleased with what they see.”
The work at Bearsted involved drilling soil and rock nails deep into the ground on either side of the line, and pumping grout around them to hold the sides of the cutting together.
Netting will be laid along the top to hold looser material in place and stop the risk of rock and soil being washed onto the railway in heavy rain.
During the works engineers installed 1,100 rock bolts and 500 nails into the cutting and drilled a total of 6,800 metres of bolt holes.
Photo credit: Network Rail