Coastal West Sussex has today welcomed Network Rail’s £3.5 billion investment plan in the South East’s congested rail network over the next five years – but warned that the main south coast line must not be forgotten in the infrastructure stakes.

The proposal, which is aimed at making improvement to the operation, maintenance and renewal of the rail network, recognises the importance of routes between the south east and the capital.

Network Rail add that it’s programme, which still needs to be approved, will improve punctuality and reduce delays when incidents occur on “the busiest and most economically vital part of the UK network”.

However, with passenger numbers set to rise by a further 11% over the next five years, Coastal West Sussex leaders are urging rail bosses not to forget about the south coast mainline which is integral to future growth in the area.

Caroline Wood, director of Coastal West Sussex, which represents businesses from Chichester across to Shoreham, said:

“While we welcome this record investment from Network Rail it is important that the powers-that-be look beyond the capital for future growth.

“The government’s industrial strategy is based on investing in regions and creating new clusters away from London. We have already made great strides in ensuring our region is ahead of the curve.
“But we can only keep on growing and providing new homes and jobs if the right infrastructure is in place – and that requires investment from central government.

“The south coast mainline between Brighton and Portsmouth is more than just a transport corridor, it is essential to growth across our region; which is why we and our members will continue to lobby for improvements across our area.”


Network Rail’s plans, which were unveiled yesterday (February 13), include:

  • Completely replacing the signalling system (which controls how and where trains run) over a significant area. This includes London Victoria station and the Brighton Main Line as far as Balham, the Chatham Main line to Penge East through Brixton and Herne Hill and suburban routes to Denmark Hill and Crofton Park.
  • Rolling out digital Traffic Management technology across the whole route, providing our signallers and controllers with a system-wide view and the ability to predict delays before they happen and plan accordingly
  • Refurbishing and renewing 650km of track
  • Replacing 754 sets of points, which allow trains to move from one track to another
  • Targeted improvements to 300 earthworks – 30 per cent of the route’s total

Network Rail say all of the above will be targeted at areas that will have the biggest impact on train reliability and passengers.

John Halsall, Network Rail’s South East route managing director, said: “The growth we’ve seen in recent years, and which is set to continue, shows just how important the railway is – but it also means that disruption can have a major impact on many people’s lives and businesses.

“This five-year plan represents a significant investment in the railway for passengers in the South East, to give them the service they expect and deserve – a more frequent, more reliable train service, supported by digital technology, on a network that is even safer for our workforce, passengers and the wider public.”

More than 510 million journeys a year are taken on South East route – far more than any other part of the network and around a third of the UK total.

That number is set to rise by a further 11% over the next five years with the new high-frequency Thameslink timetable delivering up to 24 trains per hour through central London and continued growth in jobs and housing in the South East.

Freight traffic is also expected to increase – on top of the 23% growth since 2014 – driven by the booming construction industry and wider economic growth.

The investment set out will be used to operate, maintain and renew our infrastructure, including 2,000 miles of track, 3,000 bridges, 85 tunnels and more than 500 level crossings while rolling out digital technology at the state-of-the-art rail operating centre at Three Bridges.