The Brighton Mainline runs from London to Brighton and goes through our neighbourhood. It is one of the busiest train lines in the country carrying over 300,000 passengers each day. This means the line is running at 99% capacity. As a result, any small problem creates wider disruption and rush-hour trains are over-crowded. This is why Brighton Mainline passengers experience 60 percent more knock-on delays than passengers on the South West Mainline. The line is also historically underfunded, and its track-bed, points and signals are in need of maintenance or repair.
Some time ago, I led a delegation of MPs to see the then Prime Minister, Theresa May. This meeting led to a £300m programme of works to upgrade the infrastructure (for example, fixing points and signals). This work is now happening, and should ensure there are fewer delays and cancellations once completed. Over 2018/19 Network Rail used £67m to upgrade infrastructure and tackle congestion hotspots – this initial spending is expected to reduce delays by up to 15 percent.
Another solution is to create more capacity. Passenger numbers have more than doubled since the year 2000. The biggest bottleneck on the network is around East Croydon station – Network Rail describe it as “the most challenging bottleneck on Britain’s railway network.” Services converge from across Surrey, Sussex and parts of Hampshire through East Croydon, before diverging to Victoria, London Bridge and Blackfriars. Unless we solve the bottleneck at East Croydon, delays and overcrowding will continue to get worse.
I have therefore been campaigning for the Government to provide around £2 billion to fix this bottleneck. This project would mean expanding East Croydon from 6 to 8 platforms and widening other areas of track in the vicinity. It would also involve grade separating Windmill junction – another bottleneck on the line. Not only would this prevent a lot of delays, but it would allow for more services to run, increasing capacity by 30 percent.
Network Rail launched a consultation on 1 June, which will be open until 20 September. As well as East Croydon, the consultation will include Selhurst Triangle, Windmill junction and Norwood Junction. You can find out more details and have your say here:
I have been pressing hard to make sure that these important improvements go ahead. This would be one of the biggest rail infrastructure upgrade projects in the country. I will continue to keep you updated.