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Major overhaul of one of country’s longest tunnels sees delays fall by a fifth

A major refurbishment of Sevenoaks tunnel has seen a 20% reduction in delays and halved journey times for passengers, even as the £21m infrastructure renewal nears completion.

One of the longest tunnels in southern England, Sevenoaks has been given a major overhaul which has included replacing thousands of sleepers, laying several miles of news track, and installing new drainage systems.

The main body of work has now been completed according to Network Rail, which has reduced the number of delay incidents by 20%, and journey times through the tunnel are now on average 64 seconds faster after the lifting of speed restrictions from 50mph to 90mph.

Network Rail launched the programme on the 150-year-old tunnel in 2017 after leaks and poor drainage were regularly causing delays and damaging the infrastructure of the tunnel.

Water build-up in the Victorian tunnel had been damaging the track, signalling and power supply, causing delays, but the refurbishment work is now expected to improve the reliability of the railway.

This is will benefit Southeastern passengers across large parts of Kent as well as Thameslink passengers who travel between Bedford via central London and Sevenoaks, who are regularly affected by knock-on delays and congestion.

The south east route managing director for Network Rail, John Halsall, said: “We’re pleased to have delivered this project to upgrade one of the country’s oldest and longest rail tunnels using the investment provided by government through the Thameslink Resilience Programme.

“Delays due to flooding had become a regular occurrence through the Sevenoaks Tunnel but we’ve been able reduce delays by a fifth, giving passengers well-earned relief to their journeys, and I’d like to thank them for their patience while we’ve carried out this vital work.”

The work is part of a £300m government-funded programme which aims to tackle “delay hotspots” such as the Sevenoaks tunnel, and improve the railway’s reliability for the new Thameslink timetable.

Ellie Burrows, Southeastern’s train services director, said: “We’re very pleased that this major work on the Sevenoaks Tunnel has been carried out and will improve the reliability of services for our passengers.

“I’d like to thank passengers for their patience during the 15-weekend closures of the line which have been necessary to allow this work to be carried out.”

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