Railway lines through Hither Green will be closed for nine days from 25 July to allow Network Rail to finish work on a new signalling system that has been delayed because of the coronavirus.
Engineers had hoped to finish work replacing the old 1970s signalling system through the station over Easter, but because of social distancing restrictions, Network Rail was unable to complete the job.
It hopes a nine-day closure at the start of the school summer holiday – and while many regular travellers will still be working from home – will enable its teams to finish the job.
The closure, which will affect the Sidcup and Bromley North lines as well as the main line from the Kent coast, will be SE London’s second major rail shutdown of the year, after the Bexleyheath line was closed in February for work to prevent landslips at Barnehurst.
Buses will replace trains between Sidcup, Orpington, Bromley North and Lewisham between 25 July and 2 August. Extra buses will be laid on so passengers can keep two metres apart from each other, but Network Rail and Southeastern are appealing to passengers to continue to stay off the railway unless they have to travel.
Fiona Taylor, Network Rail’s route director for Kent, saidL “We wanted to get this work done over Easter but because technicians can’t work closely together for long periods, it is going to take double the amount of time it would normally take to finish the job.
“We have taken the decision to complete the work in the summer holidays because we wanted to give those passengers who are still travelling, many of them critical workers, enough time to plan ahead. We also need time to put alternative travel options in place, such as an enhanced bus replacement service.
“Our advice to passengers over the nine days remains the same – Please only travel if you really have to, leaving space on trains for those who really need it. We are working with Southeastern to make provision for social distancing at stations and on buses. I recognise that this is a tough ask for people who are already coping with changes to travel, but this vital upgrade will provide a more reliable and resilient railway for years to come.”
Scott Brightwell, Southeastern’s train services director, said: “The current government advice is to please only travel if your journey is absolutely essential and to avoid public transport unless you have no alternative. People are also being asked to work from home if they can.
“We obviously don’t know what the travel advice will be at the end of July, when the Hither Green work is taking place, but we are alerting our passengers now so they can plan ahead. We will provide full details about alternative travel arrangements later in the summer.”
Maintenance work and deep cleaning is also planned to take place at affected stations during the nine days they are closed.
The work will also enable trains to be reversed at Lee, Hither Green and Grove Park during disruption, while control of the signals will be moved to a new centre at Three Bridges in West Sussex, replacing the old facility at London Bridge.
More information is available at www.networkrail.co.uk/HitherGreen.
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