A key SE London rail line will be closed for nine days during February in an attempt to end landslips that have crippled services four times in the past decade.
The Bexleyheath line will be closed between Blackheath and Dartford between 15 and 23 February so engineers can remove thousands of tonnes of soil and retaining walls with steel beams at Barnehurst. Network Rail says the work, timed to take place in the half-term holiday, will protect the route from landslips for the next 120 years.
Extra and longer trains will run on the adjacent Greenwich and Sidcup lines, with the route between Blackheath and Charlton also staying open for trains.
On top of the £6.6 million scheme at Barnehurst, Network Rail and Southeastern will be carrying out other maintenance and engineering works on the line and at stations to reduce the need for more engineering closures in the near future.
Kidbrooke, Eltham, Falconwood, Welling, Bexleyheath and Barnehurst stations will all be closed, with replacement buses running as well as the increased services on adjacent lines.
Dan Burrows, the programme director for Network Rail, said: “The risk of another landslip on the line is very high and we need to take action as soon as possible.
“We know it’s never a good time to close the railway, but a longer 9-day blockade during the half term when it’s typically quieter means we can minimise disruption to passengers. The alternative would be many weekend closures over a two-year period, which is not only slow and inefficient but prolongs the risk of landslips and unplanned disruption to passengers.
“We’re working closely with Southeastern to make people aware of the impact on their journeys and the alternative options available and will use the time the railway is closed to bring forward other important work.”
The most recent landslip took place in February this year, halting all services for a week.
Network Rail says the work involves removing 2,500 tonnes of mud and trees so engineers can reduce the steepness of the cutting slopes, which are prone to landslips during long periods of wet weather.
Engineers will also bring in another 8,000 tonnes of material, such as gravel and concrete, to build retaining walls along both sides of the cutting, stretching 650 metres.
The walls are made from steel beams, which are vibrated and driven into the ground six metres deep and then finished with huge concrete blocks and will stop any future landslips from reaching the tracks.
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