Network Rail engineers will be conducting extensive work at Bearsted 'cutting' - where soil or rock from a relative rise along a route is removed - in order to prevent potential landslips, as well as improving local drainage and signalling.
From Saturday 24 to Sunday 25 July, and Saturday 7 to Sunday 15 August, no trains will run between Maidstone East and Ashford International stations
The cutting at Bearsted is over 150 years old and needs ‘soil nailing’ – a method of strengthening for safety and resilience.
More than 2,000 of the 6,000+ required soil nails will be placed in the lower reaches of the cutting. Meanwhile, engineers will take the opportunity to work on power supply feeder cabling between Harrietsham and Charing.
Network Rail will also address a number of other earthwork, drainage, track and signalling maintenance issues, which include track realignment, rail grinding/ reprofiling and flood mitigation. During other station closures, they will also benefit from several maintenance works.
Fiona Taylor, Network Rail Route Director for Kent, said “line closures are always a last resort for us because of the disruption they cause passengers, but are sometimes unavoidable. Extreme weather, as a result of climate change, is having a significant impact on our Victorian railway embankments.”
“The works at Bearsted will make the cutting secure for a long time. We’re scheduling them to cause minimum disruption, when fewer people are using services, so that passengers will benefit from the works as soon as possible.”
Over the last 10 years, there have been a few occasions of unplanned disruption for passengers – such as the New Year’s Day 2021 landslip- as engineers scurried to Bearsted cutting to fix the weather-related movements.
Scott Brightwell, Train Services Director at Southeastern, said “it’s vitally important that Network Rail carry out this essential work along this part of our route. Reducing the risk of landslips will really help to improve reliability for our passengers. We are working on the alternative travel arrangements and we will publish more detailed information for our customers in the coming weeks."
Closing the rail line for 9 consecutive days will cause less disruption, rather than over the course of a high number of weekends. The closure has also been cautiously planned for the summer school holidays, when commuter numbers are usually lower.