Brighton Mainline Improvement Project - Projects, Worksites and Locations - Forum

Brighton Mainline Improvement Project

This weekend marked the start of the first main phase of the Brighton Mainline Improvement Project, after an initial Sunday possession for preliminary work back in July. Originally this was scheduled to comprise two 10 day possessions of all lines from Three Bridges to Brighton/Lewes in the October 2018 and February 2019 Half Term weeks. This blockade approach was originally justified as saving 84 successive weekend possessions. However, in July the October blockade was dropped, apparently due to the disruption BML commuters had encountered due to the Thameslink timetable change fiasco.

Instead, commencing on Saturday (and surprisingly trains ran yesterday), a series of weekend possessions are now scheduled comprising closures every weekend in October, and three weekends in November. The February blockade is still scheduled.

There is considerable publicity included a dedicated website and Twitter account, plus a poster campaign featuring a Seagull in full PPE!

From what I can deduce, considerable works are to be undertaken to improve reliability. These I believe include:

i). Replacement of Balcombe Tunnel North Junction;

ii). Repairs to track, signalling and infrastructure in Balcombe Tunnel. The latter is particularly problematic as part of the tunnel lining has I understand, failed, resulting in units having muddy water streaked down them having passed through the tunnel following rainfall;

iii). High Output Ballast Cleaning at various locations;

iv). Track replacement, power supply improvements and re-signalling at Clayton Tunnel;

v). Replacement of Preston Park Junction. Interestingly this appears to potentially include re-modelling as opposed to like for like renewal.

In preparation for this work, LWR was dropped the week before last from a point inside Clayton Tunnel to just north of the A273 overbridge on the up line, whilst Conductor rail has been dropped from Keymer Junction to south of Burgess Hill on the down line, and it appears from Balcombe to Balcombe Tunnel on both up and down lines as well.

The work this weekend comprised the HOBC from Sevington working at Balcombe station, work on the on-going Southern Power Supply programme at various locations south of Haywards Heath (using the entire Sonic Rail fleet including brand new 910137 straight from GOS) and seeing what I believe was the debut of Lundy Projects machines in Sussex, being used for piling of signal bases inside Clayton Tunnel.

As this is right on my doorstep, I will keep a close eye on things - much to the annoyance of my Wife no doubt!

This weekend saw the first of four consecutive weekend closures for this project. I wasn't local on Saturday, but from observations yesterday the work this weekend included the following:

a). A very short relay (rail and ballast only - sleepers were in the main reused) on the up line at the north end of platform 2 at Preston Park. This had been a problem location for some years with a significant wet bed which despite several previous weekend in-situ dig outs had reoccurred. One works train from Eastleigh and a tamper from Three Bridges appeared Sunday for this job, with at least three RRV's from TXM which went on track at Montpelier Sidings in Brighton.

b). Work in Clayton Tunnel, I believe cable delivery, using a PC138US and a couple of trailers supplied by Readypower (on tracked at Hassocks).

c). Track maintenance between Hassocks and Keymer Junction, using a pair of L & W Komatsu PW160's (one unidentified so far), on tracked at Keymer Junction.

d). Signal Maintenance in Burgess Hill Cutting (using TRS914 on tracked at Keymer Junction).

e). A complete re-rail (four rails) including new Insulated Block Joints at Junction Road Level Crossing, Burgess Hill. This necessitated a full road closure all weekend and removal of all Strail panels. I believe the same L & W machines were used on Saturday, as were used on other works on Sunday.

f). Power upgrade works north of Keymer Junction (using a Sonic Rail Doosan and 2 x trailers) plus a structures exam at Vale Viaduct using an SRS lorry, all completed by Sunday lunchtime with all machines back in Keymer Junction AP.

g). Troughing work at Haywards Heath Cutting (hand trollies only).

h). Conductor rail renewal (both lines) from south of Balcombe Station towards Haywards Heath. This used 2 x Readypower Doosans and 2 x Trailers, the scrap 30ft lengths being moved to Haywards Heath car park yesterday afternoon.

i). Works north of Haywards Heath and around Copyhold Junction, seemingly with no plant involved.

I understand next weekend there are works at Lewes Tunnel and between Copyhold Junction and Balcombe amongst others. Further LWR has been delivered north of Preston Park (both sides) and it appears some signal heads at Haywards Heath may have been replaced as well.

This weekend appeared to have less work undertaken from what I observed. The works undertaken during the 52 hour possession included:

a). Power/signalling upgrade works off Patcham Waterhall using Sonic Rail 910095 and a couple of trailers, one hired in from TRS. I believe this included moving a large amount of palletised materials to Pangdean sub-station.

b). Ongoing works on ventilation system and drainage improvements inside Clayton Tunnel.

c). More power/signalling upgrade works off Keymer Jct. AP again using Sonic Rail 910100 and a pair of trailers, one hired in from TRS and unloading cables at least in part. This was very mobile, working south of Burgess Hill on Saturday but it had reached Haywards Heath by Sunday morning. Also further signalling work in the Burgess Hill area used a pair of TRS Evo's although only one was used and this appeared only for a few hours on Saturday.

d). Work inside Haywards Heath tunnel, I believe again signalling related. However this also included engineers accessing the northern portal masonry by ladders as well.

e). Track maintenance at Copyhold Junction, using a pair of L & W Contractors PW160's and trailers which had been delivered to Haywards Heath Car Park. This included replacement of at least one 60ft switch rail.

f). Ballast cleaning using the HOBC from south of Balcombe station to Ouse Valley Viaduct, on the down line. The HOBC was in residence all weekend having arrived from Sevington and I believe was almost exclusively loaded with new ballast on arrival, spoil being discarded by side conveyors into JNA's which arrived in three trains from Eastleigh. The HOBC tamper also appeared from Tonbridge whilst Quattro 238 and trailer 278 were present in support at Wellgrove Woods, although I don't believe were actually used.

g). I believe at least one RRV was on tracked at Parish Lane, Pease Pottage this being visible from the M23. However as this is remote, and parking is near impossible within a mile of the AP, I didn't check this out.

h). On the Lewes branch, Streat Green Bridge (between Spatham Lane and Plumpton) was replaced. I understand this involved replacement of the wheel timber deck with a new concrete bridge. The work site is inaccessible, the bridge itself being little more than a cattle track. However a temporary road has been laid across fields accessed from Streat Lane and a large mobile crane was used to swing the new deck in. A tamper also appeared in the afternoon from Three Bridges running via a complex route including reversals at Littlehampton, Brighton and Southerham Junction.

Additionally, a press release to residents locally suggested that cables were to be laid between Cooksbridge and Plumpton, with the machinery accessing the line at Hamsey Level Crossing. However this work appeared to have been cancelled as nothing was actually present.

This weekend saw the following works undertaken:

a). Track maintenance around Brighton/Preston Park which used the Brighton MDU core machines, L & W Contractors RRV126/127 and a pair of trailers on tracked at Brighton Montpelier Sidings.

b). Further re-signalling/power works off Patcham Waterhall using Sonic Rail 910100 plus two trailers one of which was again cross hired from TRS.

c). Track replacement on the down line from the Northern Portal of Clayton Tunnel, south. This used seven engineers trains from Eastleigh, one of which I believe included a TRM (but that's not confirmed), Tamper DR73918 and 10 Readypower RRV's along with two trailers and two ballast brushes all on tracked at Hassocks.

d). Further re-signalling work between Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath, this week using Sonic Rail 910095 and two trailers, plus TRS927 all on tracked at Keymer Junction.

e). Conductor rail renewals from Balcombe Station to Balcombe Tunnel. This used Readypower FR674, along with a pair of trailers and numerous attachments including a Teroc Rail Shear along with two Network Rail ATMW's, 910015 (which may not have been used) and 910020 all of which were delivered to Haywards Heath Car Park.

f). I believe works around Balcombe Junction but again I didn't get out there.

g). On the Lewes spur, further bridge replacement follow up works at Streat Green Bridge again using a mobile crane. In addition, rail defects were resolved at Chillington using L & W Contractors RRV142 and a trailer on tracked at Cooksbridge plus I believe re-signalling works around Cooksbridge and Hamsey.

In addition overnight work is also being undertaken in the week between 1am and 5am. This has included replacement of a large number of conductor rail "pots" on the up line through Burgess Hill in the last week.

Last weekend saw the final two day possession (for now) and works undertaken included:

a). Further track maintenance in the Brighton/Preston Park area using an L & W Contractors PW160 and trailer on tracked at Brighton, Montpelier Sidings.

b). Further re-signalling works from Patcham Waterhall including, I believe, installation of a number of cable management sleepers. This used a Sonic Rail Doosan plus a couple of trailers one again cross hired from TRS.

c). A second weekend of track replacement inside Clayton Tunnel. A number of works trains again attending and 9 x Readypower RRV's along with three trailers and a brush were used on this, on tracked at Hassocks.

d). Further re-signalling works north of Keymer Jct. These again used a Sonic Rail Doosan plus a pair of trailers, along with TRS927 again all on tracked at Keymer Jct.

e). Drainage work at Haywards Heath cutting, including diamond drilling works. No OTP was involved in this.

f). A very large conductor rail replacement job from Haywards Heath (north end) all the way to Ouse Valley Viaduct. This used three Readypower Doosans, three trailers plus assorted attachments along with a Network Rail Flashbutt welder, again all on tracked at Haywards Heath Car Park. Incidentally, I now understand that the works over the previous weekend included conductor rail replacement across Ouse Valley Viaduct, using at least a pair of Readypower Doosans but I did not see this myself.

As a consequence, I believe nearly all conductor rail from the north end of Haywards Heath to the southern portal of Balcombe Tunnel has now been replaced.

g). On the Lewes spur, further bridge replacement works at Streat Green Underbridge. This weekend a Pro-Rail Kobelco SK135 and trailer were used all weekend, delivered to Plumpton Level Crossing. I understand that over the weekend of 13th/14th October, the works here also used the Pro-Rail Hitachi and a trailer although I missed those myself.

h). Re-signalling work in the Cooksbridge area which didn't use any OTP.

i). A detailed inspection at Lewes tunnel, including abseilers.

As an update on this, November strangely saw two consecutive weekends of Saturday only closures, these being the 3rd and the 10th November, with trains running as normal on the Sunday. Due to the late cancellation of the October half term 10 day closure, the rescheduled work has been fitted around other planned possessions (for example Sunday 4th saw the West Coastway blocked between Brighton and Arundel Junction) which effected the diversionary routes. These days were very quiet, the works seemingly being re-signalling work off Patcham Waterhall and Keymer Jct using Sonic Rail Doosans and trailers (although Keymer was reduced to a couple of hand trollies on the second weekend). In addition trackside work was undertaken at Balcombe Wellgrove Woods AP, I understand to improve drainage and also seemingly to extend the concrete "Pad" at the end of the ramp from the compound. On the 10th there was also some works underway on the surfaces to platforms 1 and 2 at Lewes station.

This weekend saw the final full weekend closure of this year and there was a marked up turn in work. The following was undertaken amongst other jobs:

1. Replacement of the up line at the northern portal of Clayton Tunnel. Readypower supplied 9 x RRV, 2 x trailers and a brush to Hassocks where notably the two large concrete pads have been recently built trackside on the former goods yard to park RRV's on,this being their first use - although by this morning everything was back on the other side of the fence as per usual. Seven works trains ran to/from Eastleigh plus a tamper which came down, unusually, from Ashford Crane Shops. In addition to the main worksite, the up line at Hassocks station had an impromptu ballast top up on Saturday evening as at least one train arrived overloaded and had surplus ballast pushed over the side by RR301 prior to entering the worksite!

2. Replacement of signal heads (Sunday only) in Wivelsfield station using a Sonic Doosan, TRS MEWP and three TRS trailers on tracked at Keymer Jct.

3. High Output Ballast Cleaning (Saturday only) on the down line from Valebridge Viaduct to just north of Wivelsfield station using the Sevington rake with spoil being discharged into two engineers trains from Eastleigh and Hoo Junction respectively. Tamper 73121 arrived from Tonbridge with the usual Quattro RRV,Trailer and Brush on tracked at Haywards Heath Network Rail depot.

4. Signalling work around Haywards Heath Station, particularly in the downside carriage sidings which didn't require any plant.

5. On Sunday, there were two separate worksites off Wellgrove Woods, the first using a pair of Readypower Doosans and three trailers, and the second using one of the Brighton MDU L & W Machines plus trailer.

January 2019 sees work recommence, and in anticipation of this there are large numbers of pre-built panels stacked up at Balcombe Junction, plus some evidence of panels being constructed (on a small scale) at Montpelier Sidings in Brighton (for Preston Park I believe). Conductor rail remains to be installed through Burgess Hill, and there is a large amount of LWR awaiting installation from Withdean to Preston Park on the up line. An interesting few months ahead!

A quick update on progress prior to the nine day blockade commencing on Saturday.

This past weekend saw a two day closure, largely for preparatory work to be undertaken. The following work was observed:

1. Re-Railing between Preston Park and Patcham using a couple of L & W Contractors PW160's and trailers plus copious Iron Men from Patcham Waterhall AP. I believe that this was also moving scrap rail in anticipation for a large relay on this stretch in the blockade.

2. Work on Patcham Tunnel (I think) using TRS917 again on tracked at Patcham Waterhall.

3. Follow up tamping in the Clayton Tunnel area.

4. Delivery of a large number of 60ft rail lengths to locations south of Burgess Hill using a pair of Sonic Rail Doosans and trailers. The machines and rails were delivered to Hassocks, the rails being lifted by a Sonic Rail Hiab lorry from the upside car park onto Platform 1 from where they were moved north. A Sonic flatbed lorry was present in Hassocks former Goods Yard on Saturday.

5. Running into the above works, installation of new Conductor Rail Insulator pots through Burgess Hill using hand trolleys. Similar work I believe may have also been undertaken at various locations south of Haywards Heath Tunnel as far as Wivelsfield as well. However the new conductor rail itself has not been installed.

6. Unspecified works on Wivelsfield station.

7. An inspection of Valebridge Viaduct, using SRS F247 SJV on tracked at Keymer Junction.

8. Drainage works in Haywards Heath cutting. This is a major work site, with a temporary roadway having been built through woodland adjacent to the up line for Phase 3 of the Haywards Heath drainage scheme. Signage suggests that this is to facilitate a tunnel to be dug using a mini tunnel boring machine lowered/retrieved from chambers adjacent to the line in the Embankment linking to existing drainage at the north and south ends. A large amount of civils machines are present on this, with piling work underway on Saturday.

9. Platform works on Platform 3 at Haywards Heath.

10. High Output Ballast Cleaning between Balcombe and Copyhold Junction. As well as the HOBC train, four spoil trains were also present throughout the weekend with the usual Quattro support machinery on tracked at Wellgrove Woods Access Point.

11. Platform repairs at Balcombe Station. This included a Concrete Pump lorry in the station car park, pumping concrete onto the furthest side of the station footbridge and approach path.

12. Drainage work inside Balcombe Tunnel using Tube Cube boxes. At least one TRS Doosan was used, I suspect two/three machines may have been present but I didn't see them. Machinery was also on tracked at Wellgrove Woods.

13. Preparation work for the Balcombe Tunnel Junction replacement with a pair of Quattro Doosan RRV's, and a pair of HE Services Komatsu PC340's keeping the stacked panels company at Tilgate Forest.

I didn't have chance to look at the Lewes line this weekend.

As for the blockade, around 15 trains appear to be booked. The first part of the week sees these running to Balcombe Tunnel Junction, the second part to Preston Park for the relay to Patcham Tunnel. I am guessing that a lot of new conductor rail will be installed from Haywards Heath to south of Burgess Hill. I am also told that at various times, station canopies at Burgess will be replaced (which is interesting as one of these covers the layby the replacement buses stop in) and also a collapsed drain on platform 2 is to be rebuilt. There will no doubt be plenty of other work, given the huge disruption this closure will cause even in Half Term week.

Thanks Nick for the interesting notes on your local patch.

I know Jim keeps us up to date on Glasgow area but if anyone else has work going on in their area please do post on the forum here (ideally in advance) as I'm sure others here will find it useful.

So today saw trains return south of Three Bridges after the planned nine day closure across the Half Term week. Plenty of work was undertaken, with approximately 70 items of OTP being noted, although not all was present at all times. Meanwhile, as well as direct Brighton to Victoria, via Littlehampton trains, a very intensive replacement bus service operated, with around 240 vehicles being required, the furthest from home I saw being a double decker from Swindon!

Notably, one of the big projects, a plain line relay through Patcham Tunnel which was scheduled to begin on Thursday evening was cancelled very late on. Indeed Readypower had already delivered a pair of PC138s and a trailer to Waterhall AP by the time the job was postponed. Furthermore, Friday morning found couple of Readypower operators in their vans with nothing to do, and a lorry full of welding equipment/clip drivers being turned around as not required!

Work I observed, from North to South, comprised:

1. Brighton Area - track maintenance work using a pair of L & W Contractors RRVs and trailers, plus a ballast brush all of which were delivered to Brighton Montpelier Sidings.

2. Withdean Area - Further rerailing works (across the first weekend) using a pair of L & W Contractors RRV's and trailers from Patcham Waterhall - although one pair was not used before collection on Thursday.

3. A highly mobile work site ran from Waterhall AP all the way to Keymer Junction (when other worksites permitted) upgrading signal heads. This used two Sonic Rail Doosans, three trailers and a TRS Mewp, the last of which was off tracked on Thursday morning. Some of this equipment ended up being collected from Keymer Junction.

4. Further signalling works took place inside Clayton Tunnel, along with I believe other drainage and maintenance work which included the use of a pair of Readypower Manitou's.

5. A significant amount of conductor rail renewal took place starting with from south of Burgess Hill to Keymer Junction on Saturday/Sunday, from Valebridge Viaduct to Rocky Lane overbridge on Monday/Tuesday and then from Wivelsfield to Valebridge Viaduct on Wednesday/Thursday. This used three Readypower Doosans and ten trailers, all delivered to Hassocks but again collected from Keymer Junction. Notably, this job worked up to the Wivelsfield station project, green barriers separating the two and phases two and three saw the RRV's crossing the Wivelsfield job.

6. Complete reconstruction of Wiveslfield platform decks with pretty much all concrete slabs being replaced. This ran for the whole nine days, using three Readypower 988P's and four trailers all ontracked from Keymer Junction. Other decorating work was undertaken as well.

7. Major drainage works including UTX work at Haywards Heath Cutting. This used four TRS RRV's (which included a Doosan I failed to see but believed to be TRS1028) plus seven trailers and an engineers train. This ran from Saturday - Saturday with equipment on tracked from Haywards Car Park. A very large collection of civils machines continue to work on the embankment/park as well.

8. Replacement of drainage on Haywards Heath Station platforms, plus surface repairs which didn't use any OTP.

9. Follow up HOBC work north of Balcombe Viaduct, using the usual Quattro machine and attachments, I believe delivered to Haywards Heath NR Depot Tuesday and still present this evening.

10. Replacement of Balcombe footbridge using a road crane (interestingly I understand the old SR concrete bridge demolished was itself second hand - having initially been at Three Bridges.

11. Work in Balcombe Tunnel from Wellgrove Woods which did not use OTP.

12. Replacement and Re-Modelling of Balcombe Junction which ran the whole nine days using Quattro RRV's and attachments, as well as Kirow DRK81613 and a pair of tampers.

13. Level crossing work at Spatham Lane, Ditchling.

All in all a very interesting week.

Following the last weekend of works, for the time being at least, it's a good time to bring this up to date.

Firstly, over the weekend of 1st and 2nd March, a further weekend long closure saw a much reduced scale of work being undertaken, including:

1. Rerailing from Preston Park to Patcham using CWR (L & W PW160 and trailer).

2. Further platform works at Wivelsfield, this time using a large mobile crane to move concrete slabs into place.

3. Follow up tamping between Wivelsfield and Rocky Lane, Haywards Heath.

4. Conductor Rail replacement through Haywards Heath Cutting (two Readypower Gigarailers and three trailers). This was very much a fill in, being through the area where the drainage work was undertaken throughout the blockade.

5. High Output Ballast Cleaning between Haywards Heath and Copyhold Junction.

6. Follow up work at Balcombe Tunnel Junction.

7. Major work at Cooksbridge Level Crossing, this being as part of the Lewes Re-Signalling scheme.

There then followed two weekends with the now novelty of trains at least to Brighton. The first weekend admittedly saw the closure of Keymer Junction to Lewes from Thursday - Sunday as part of the Lewes blockade, with further works at Cooksbridge Level Crossing as well as footbridge work at Plumpton. Then the weekend of 23/24 March saw a shorter blockade, Keymer Junction - Brighton. I was away that weekend but believe work included:

1. Re-Railing with CWR from Montpelier Junction, Brighton to Preston Park (two L & W PW160's and trailers).

2. Trackwork off Patcham Waterhall using a third L & W PW160 and trailer.

3. Insulated Block Joint replacement, I believe at various locations from Preston Park to Hassocks (including around Pangdean Sub-Station) using two Sonic Rail Doosans and trailers.

4. Preparation work for the Burgess Hill - Hassocks renewal work.

The weekend of 30/31 March saw another all weekend block, with the following work observed:

1. Re-Signalling/Power upgrade work off Patcham Waterhall, I believe around Pangdean, using a Sonic Doosan and two trailers.

2. Major renewal work on the southbound line just south of Burgess Hill Station using Quattro Plant machines (unusually as this was a plain line job). Around ten trains were used, the work including a section of very deep excavation back to the natural soil with a new sand base being installed.

3. Further works on Wivelsfield station, again using a mobile crane.

4. Further Conductor Rail renewal north of Wivelsfield using a pair of Readypower Doosans and three trailers.

5. Further IBJ work around Haywards Heath using a pair of Sonic Doosans and trailers.

6. Refurbishment of Haywards Heath Car Park access point long timbers.

7. Follow up work at Balcombe Tunnel Junction using a Quattro PW160.

8. Track work at Hamsey Level Crossing using an L & W PW160, trailer and ballast brush.

9. Catch Pit emptying at Cooksbridge Level Crossing using a pair of road only tanker lorries.

10. Further work on Plumpton footbridge.

This weekend saw Saturdays work cancelled after Brighton achieved a trip to Wembley. Sunday however saw the following:

1. Considerable works between Montpelier Junction and Preston Park including, I believe, further re-railing using CWR and heavy refurbishment work to two sets of points (although one set appears to have only been partially completed) using four L & W PW160's and trailers.

2. Recovery of scrap trackside boxes and cables from Patcham to, I believe, Burgess Hill using two TXM Gigarailers and four trailers. This work may not have been completed, as several cabinets are left upturned trackside around Hassocks with multiple Jumbo bags of scrap cable between Hassocks and Burgess Hill.

3. Tamping at Clayton Tunnel.

4. Follow up work at Burgess Hill.

5. Track work around Haywards Heath using another PW160 plus trailer.

6. Follow up work at Balcombe Tunnel Junction using a Quattro PW160 and trailer.

7. Track work around Balcombe Tunnel Junction using a pair of L & W PW160's, trailers and a brush.

This brings the main block of work to an end (although a further weekend closure is planned in the first week of June). Aside from the cancellation in February of the Patcham Tunnel renewal job, and the cancellation of whatever work was planned on Saturday last week, and whilst masses of work has clearly been completed, it looks like a lot is left to do. In particular, the situation from Preston Park to Patcham is really unclear. Although a lot of re-railing has been undertaken, there is still a lot of new rail not installed (in part due to the renewal job cancellation). It looks to me that this has been rather piecemeal, with gaps between sections which have been replaced. Several sets of points at Preston Park are also marked up for re-timbering, although to be fair this has only been done in the last couple of weeks.

There is also vast amounts of scrap awaiting recovery, particularly north of Clayton Tunnel (where some 700 tonnes of long abandoned scrap rail was recovered prior to the renewal work in October as it was in the way, much of which is left on the embankment), as well as from Montpelier Junction to Patcham. Indeed, on this stretch whilst some rail has been cut up, a lot is still in CWR form. It is not helped that four nights of scrap recovery by McCullochs in March was, I understand, reduced to only one night because of multiple problems including I understand, being unable to de-energise the third rail the first night! There is also Con Rail left around Haywards Heath Cutting.

But on a positive note, as a daily commuter and allowing for the problems elsewhere on the network, there appears to be a huge improvement in infrastructure failures causing delays. The early signs are therefore encouraging.

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