Croydon leads the way in one respect, at least: it has become the “most challenging bottleneck on Britain’s railway”.
That’s according to Network Rail, and they should know.
Network Rail has announced a public consultation into its multi-million-pound plans to fix that issue and open up the south coast railway through to central London, including an enlarged East Croydon Station with two additional platforms, and a series of rail “flyovers” at Selhurst to improve what it calls “the current ‘spaghetti junction’”, where lines from the south coast, Sussex and Surrey meet those to and from London Victoria, London Bridge and beyond.
Plus they want to provide improvements at Norwood Junction and a new bridge in Addiscombe.
Total passenger numbers travelling through East Croydon have increased from 45million per year in 2005 to 75million by 2017, and are expected to reach 90million by the 2030s.
The whole scheme – which is separate for the Brighton mainline works which are being undertaken through into 2019 – will be Network Rail’s biggest project in south-east England following the completion of works at London Bridge.
“It is a huge priority,” a Westminster source told Inside Croydon, but it depends on securing full funding from the Government after this design phase is completed.
Announcing their public consultation, Network Rail said, “The Croydon area is by far the busiest and most congested part of Britain’s rail network, with 30 per cent more passengers and trains passing through it each day than London Euston and King’s Cross stations combined.
“Train punctuality on the Brighton mainline is the lowest of any major route as the bottleneck magnifies the impact of even the most minor incident or delay.”
And John Halsall, Network Rail’s route managing director for the South East, said, “For too long, train performance on the lines through Croydon have been below the level that 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 in Croydon to take part in this consultation, either online or at one of our local drop-in events, so we can make sure our proposal delivers a genuine transformation in rail services for passengers and businesses and supports the ongoing regeneration of central Croydon.”
Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, together with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald, has met Network Rail and engineering contractors Atkins to view the latest plans.
According to Network Rail, the junctions around Croydon have become “the most challenging bottleneck on Britain’s railway network” with trains from across southern England converging on Croydon carrying 300,000 passengers per day.
Jones urged Croydon residents to take part online or at consultation events running across Croydon.
More than 1,700 trains pass through Croydon each weekday, more than London Paddington and Euston combined. The congestion this inevitably creates sees passengers on the Brighton mainline, running through Croydon, experience 60 per cent more “knock-on delays” when an incident occurs compared to the nearby South West mainline.
“Croydon commuters have been at a double disadvantage for years,” Jones said.
“First, we’ve had a train operator in Govia Thameslink who have failed to live up to their responsibilities. Secondly, the track and other ageing infrastructure has not coped well with the increase in passengers.
“The recent timetable failure showed how fractured and disjointed our railway system is and why we desperately need public ownership. But we also need significant investment to improve the railway around Croydon and upgrade our stations to stop things from grinding to a halt.
“I was pleased to see how much work has gone into planning what will be a truly transformative project for our town. It will improve life for commuters and help boost our economy as a major hub between London, Gatwick and the south coast.”
And McDonald said, “Labour has committed to reforming how our railways are run, to create a more integrated transport system and reverse the privatisation which has seen fares skyrocket and standards plummet. We also recognise that long-term investment in our railway infrastructure is crucial to make up for years of under-investment under the Conservatives.
“I look forward to seeing the plans to transform rail in Croydon continue to take shape in the coming months.”
The online consultation goes live on November 5.
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