Plan to scrap ‘notorious’ Brighton Mainline bottleneck

The Croydon bottleneck (Photograph: Network Rail)
The Croydon bottleneck (Photograph: Network Rail)

Network Rail has revealed plans to remove what it calls the ‘notorious Croydon bottleneck’ on the mainline between Sussex and London.

It said a public consultation will take place in November and December on proposals to ‘improve punctuality, speed up journey times and enable more trains to run on the Brighton Mainline’ by axing the bottleneck.

Network Rail said the troublesome spot regularly causes delays and disruption to up to 300,000 passengers who travel on the Brighton Mainline and its branches each day.

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Despite a report today that services from Brighton station suffer the least delays of the busiest stations in the country, Network Rail said the Brighton Mainline has the lowest train punctuality of any major route, as the bottleneck at Croydon ‘magnifies the impact of even the most minor incident or delay’, causing 60 per cent more knock-on delays compared with similar routes.

If approved, Network Rail’s scheme would see a see additional tracks constructed in the Croydon area, extra platforms at an expanded and modernised East Croydon station and a series of new railway flyovers to replace the current ‘spaghetti junction’ near the station where lines from the south coast, Sussex and Surrey meet those to and from London Victoria, London Bridge and beyond.

John Halsall, Network Rail route managing director for the South East, said: “Removing the Croydon bottleneck is the only practical way to provide the step-change in reliability and capacity that passengers and businesses in Sussex so desperately want to see.

“For too long, train performance on the Brighton Main Line has been below the level that commuters and other passengers expect and deserve. While a number of factors have contributed to these issues in recent years, the basic layout of our railway through the Croydon area and the bottleneck it creates means reliability won’t ever improve to acceptable levels without significant changes.

“We want as many people as possible to take part in this consultation, either online or at one of our events, so we can make sure our proposal delivers a genuine transformation in rail services for passengers, businesses and communities in one of the most economically important parts of the country.”

Jonathan Sharrock, chief executive at Coast to Capital Local Economic Partnership, said: “Promoting better transport and mobility is identified as a priority for investment in our Strategic Economic Plan ‘Gatwick 360’. Our ongoing area-wide Brighton mainline campaign aims to bring investment and long-term increases in railway capacity on the line which links our whole area and facilitates wider economic growth. The Croydon area remodelling scheme is critical to the success of this and we support the proposals. We continue to urge local businesses to join our Brighton Mainline Alliance and respond to the consultation.”

Angie Doll, passenger services director for Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “Punctuality on Southern was, recently, the best it had been for five years and services on Thameslink are back on track too. However, a major investment of this scale is vital to improve services further for passengers and to future-proof this most-congested route.”

A six-week public consultation period will take place from November 5 to December 17, to give passengers, businesses and members of the public the opportunity to have their say on the proposals.

They can do so online at networkrail.co.uk/croydon or by completing a questionnaire which will be handed out at stations along the Brighton Main Line including Brighton, Gatwick Airport, East Croydon, London Bridge and London Victoria.