The enormous project has seen upgrade work completed at Hither Green, Sandwich, Slade Green, Guildford, Feltham and Grove Park stations.
Maintenance work has also been completed including improvements to signalling and track between Balham and Clapham, around the Hither Green area and also on the Arun Valley line which is in Sussex, whilst a massive rebuild of the Southampton Docks area now means that freight trains of up to 750m can now run.
The massive investment program has seen £660 million spent in Kent, £643 million in Sussex and £580 million in Wessex. The huge ‘build back better’ upgrade project is hoped to give passengers a feeling of safety and overall confidence to get back on board with train travel following the pandemic.
Network Rail has been working hard throughout the pandemic making sure that trains were running for critical workers such as NHS staff and also making sure that crucial goods such as food, fuel and medical supplies were able to move across the network on freight trains each day.
Railway workers were also classified as key workers during the lockdown and this meant that signallers and maintenance teams had to work both day and night as part of the national effort, keeping the network running and the country on the move.
Adam Kotulecki was one of the railways key workers working as a senior project manager for the Southampton Freight Train Lengthening scheme and he said: “We had over 600 employees coming into the site during the project.
“It was of paramount importance that we not only kept colleagues safe by using social distancing, but their loved ones safe too. A lot of our staff stayed down on the site – many lived hundreds of miles away – so they could dedicate and focus on the work, and not put their loved ones in any danger.
“For nine months, I moved out of my house and didn’t get to see my own family – even my wedding was cancelled due to the pandemic. My life needed to change, and I was one hundred per cent committed to my job and the successful delivery of the project.
“We hope that when passengers come back, they will see a more reliable network.”
John Halsall, Network Rail Southern region managing director, said: “We’re really excited to welcome more passengers back to the railway now that the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.
“I want to pay tribute to the thousands of Network Rail and train operator colleagues who have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to keep the country moving during this incredibly challenging time.
“Our passengers deserve to travel with confidence, so we’ve been working hard to keep you safe with enhanced cleaning and new one-way systems to avoid crowding, and we’re asking passengers to continue to wear face coverings in crowded spaces out of respect to others.”
Chris Fowler, customer services director for Southern, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming customers back on board. Over the past year, our colleagues have worked hard to keep services running to support key workers and essential travel.
“In addition, we’ve also continued to carry out our multi-million-pound, network-wide station improvement programme. Involving more than 1,000 projects and 250 stations – we’re confident that returning customers will enjoy a better station experience.”
Claire Mann, managing director of South Western Railway, said: “It’s great news that Network Rail has made such good progress in improving the infrastructure that our customers rely on every day.
“This work complements the enhancements that we at South Western Railway have made over the last 18 months, including faster wi-fi, upgraded station facilities and accessibility improvements – to name just a few.
“Improving our railway is a process rather than an event, and we are continually working to improve our services – including by learning from our mistakes when things go wrong.”
David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, said: “Working together with Network Rail we’ve continued to invest in the railway across Kent, East Sussex and South East London in the areas that really matter, not least in enhancing accessibility and ensuring that journeys are more reliable.
“The last eighteen months have not been without challenges, but we continue to listen and to respond to continue to do more to improve the journey experience of our passengers.”
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