England

Nine-week Ashford-to-Hastings rail line closure goes ahead

Southern train
Image caption Trains between Ashford and Hastings will be replaced by buses and taxis during the nine-week closure

A nine-week railway line closure is to go ahead despite protests at the disruption to services in the south of Kent and East Sussex.

The 26-mile closure between Ashford and Hastings, starting on 9 January, will allow essential maintenance work to take place in the Ore Tunnel.

MPs and Hastings council urged Network Rail not to close the line for so long because of "unacceptable" disruption.

The company said there was never an ideal time to do work on such a scale.

Work on the tunnel in East Sussex will involve improving drainage and repairing linings to prevent water seeping through. The track will also be renewed.

Other work is being done while the line is closed to avoid further disruption in future, Network Rail said.

Railway bridges at Doleham and Three Oaks are to be replaced, along with maintenance of the embankment between Ashford and Ham Street.

There will also be maintenance on bridges and culverts between Ashford and Hastings and track improvements between Rye and Hastings to enable the line speed to be increased in future.

During the work there will be no trains between Ashford and Hastings, with the service replaced with a bus and taxi service.

Three MPs - Damian Green (Ashford), Greg Barker (Battle and Bexhill), and Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) - asked Network Rail to reconsider the length of the line closure.

Hastings Borough Council leader, Jeremy Birch, said it was "frankly unacceptable".

But Network Rail said the work in the Ore Tunnel was vital.

"We appreciate the impact this will have on passengers, is why we have programmed so much other work to be done at the same time to reduce the amount of potential disruption in the future," said route managing director Fiona Taylor.

"We were keen to avoid the summer months which are so important for the local economy.

"We thank passengers in advance for their patience and are confident the improvements we are making are the first step towards cutting journey times."

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