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31 March 2014, 11:07 | Updated: 31 March 2014, 11:21
Passengers in Sussex and Surrey are being promised more trains, more seats and improved stations as five years of massive investment in the county’s railways begins this week.
Network Rail has seen an increase of 50 per cent in passenger demand over the past 10 years so it is investing more than £2.3bn in the rail network connecting Kent and Sussex with London over the next five years.
Much of the money will go on improving the Thameslink service, reducing congestion at London Bridge and allowing some trains which currently stop at Charing Cross and Cannon Street to continue through central London taking away the need to swap to the tube.
Network Rail’s managing director for South East route, Dave Ward, said: “The growth we are managing now is phenomenal – Southeastern and Southern already run more than 2,000 trains each every day – and this has given us a real opportunity to improve the railway in Kent, Sussex and south-east London.
“We have a great responsibility to passengers who rely on us and their operators to carry them home safely and reliably every day, and we can only continue to do that by improving existing routes and upgrading our technology. We are also working on plans to improve the resilience of the railway in Kent and Sussex to extreme weather – something passengers have become well aware of the need for this year.
“And we are renewing our focus on safety. While we are the safest railway of our size in Europe, we cannot be complacent – particularly when it comes to level crossings and the safety of our workforce.
“The next five years will make a huge difference to everyone who travels by train in Kent and the south east, and we are committed to delivering a better, more reliable railway for them.”
Passengers in Sussex will also see some major changes, including the construction of an extra platform at Redhill, to increase capacity at the station, improving signalling on the Brighton Main Line near Balcombe to increase flexibility, and platform lengthening on the line to Uckfield to allow longer trains to run.
Other investment programmes for the county in the next five years will include improving the concourse at Victoria station to give passengers more room, upgrading the power supply to improve reliability and allow for increased services, bringing 50 per cent of all signalling in the county into a new control centre, and a linespeed improvement scheme from Hastings to Ashford.
There will also be a rolling programme of station upgrades and improvements.