Transport Secretary commissions feasibility study on improvements to Brighton Main Line
One of the key promises I made in the run-up to the General Election was to improve the rail service to central London.
Commuters have had a pretty miserable time in recent months with frequent delays and overcrowded trains. The main cause of the misery is the huge investment the Government is making to upgrade the Thameslink route and in particular transform London Bridge station (though the franchise operator GTR and Network Rail aren’t blameless). This has caused significant delays on trains into and out of London Bridge, which in turn has led some people to travel to Victoria instead, increasing overcrowding on that route.
When the Thameslink work is complete, the service to London Bridge will be significantly improved. We then need similar investment in the London to Brighton mainline to increase capacity and improve reliability on services to Victoria.
The key bottlenecks on that line, which stop GTR running more frequent trains, are at and just to the north of East Croydon station. The station itself needs two extra platforms, additional track needs to be laid north of the station and Windmill Bridge junction (the point between East Croydon and Selhurst stations where the line crosses the West Croydon to Norwood Junction line) needs to be reconfigured so that trains on the fast line don’t have to stop. The total cost of this work is likely to be just shy of £1 billion. Network Rail plan their improvements to the railway in five year phases, which they call Control Periods. We are currently in Control Period 5. Subject to Government approval, they would like to carry out these works at the start of Control Period 6, which begins in 2019.
Yesterday, I welcomed the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, to East Croydon station to see for himself what needs to be done, together with senior executives from Network Rail and GTR. He was particularly struck by the amount of development taking place on either side of the station. East Croydon is already one of the busiest stations in the country other than the main London terminals and the regeneration of Croydon town centre is clearly going to significantly increase the number of people using it.
The Secretary of State told me that he has recently given Network Rail approval to do a detailed feasibility study of these works, which is good news. I also took the opportunity to lobby him about moving East and West Croydon stations from zone 5 to zone 4, which would save commuters hundreds of pounds a year; and to speak to Network Rail executives about building a link from Cherry Orchard Road to the new northern entrance to the station.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a passionate supporter of the redevelopment of our town centre. However, if we are going to build the homes we so desperately need in the town centre, it is vital that we also improve our infrastructure to cope with all the extra people. I will continue to lobby the Government, Network Rail and GTR to ensure my constituents get the rail service they deserve given the fares they are asked to pay and will keep you updated on progress.