Network Rail to upgrade South London tunnel as part of £1.25bn project

Network Rail to upgrade South London tunnel as part of £1.25bn project

Network Rail will shut down the railway between Brixton and Beckenham Junction in South London for nine days this summer as it replaces the tracks through the 2km Penge Tunnel.

The £4.55M works on the Victorian era tunnel will take place between Saturday 23 and Sunday 31 July 2022. It is part of the larger £1.25bn South East Upgrade programme to invest in the railway across the Kent route.

The 4km of track, some of which dates to the early 1970s, will be entirely replaced by engineers working in the enclosed space. Engineering trains, road-rail vehicles and other heavy machinery will be necessary to complete the work. The end result will be a smoother and more reliable rail service.

The tunnel is said to have been made from 33M bricks that were cast from the very clay that was dug out to form the passage. They were fired in a brick kiln built on site. It has proven a feat of engineering, which is why it’s only the tracks that need renewing and not the structure itself.

Network Rail Kent route director Fiona Taylor said: “We understand that it’s frustrating for passengers to hear those dreaded announcements about signalling or track faults – older track is more prone to problems and so needs more maintenance.

“That’s really challenging to do at Penge because the tunnel is 1.25 miles long. Lifting and replacing track inside the tunnel’s tight confines is no mean feat.

“We recognise this major work will be disruptive for passengers, but it’s important we get it done as quickly as possible.

“Most of the track, including the rail sleepers and ballast, are now over 30 years old and some even dates back to the early 1970s – making it more than half a century old in places.

“The end result will really make a difference to passengers, with the new track providing more reliable journeys for many years to come.”

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