Action needed over Balcombe rail tunnel floods

Network Rail says private landowners will need to be consulted to solve flooding problems in Balcombe Tunnel.

Flooding at Three Bridges
Flooding at Three Bridges

Speaking after last Friday’s major flood, which closed the tunnel until 10.30am and prevented thousands of commuters from reaching London, a spokesman for Network Rail said: “Balcombe Tunnel runs through a hillside cutting at the lowest part of the land and there is a lake above.

“On Friday, there was nowhere for water being pumped out of the tunnel to go. It had rained so heavily that the watercourses and culverts were full and the car park at Three Bridges was flooded. The drains were just backing up.”

Replacement buses had problems getting through because several roads, including part of the A23 at Handcross Hill were also closed due to the floods.

Shelley Atlas, who chairs Brighton Line Commuters told the Middy: “It is appreciated that we have had an excessive amount of water and the roads were also affected on that day so you can’t always blame the railway.

“But with climate change, this could happen again and they have to look at ways of addressing this problem long term.”

Balcombe Tunnel was also flooded for a short period before Christmas.

Network Rail’s spokesman blamed “the sheer quantity of rain” that had fallen over the festive season and into January.

He added: “We’re in the process of looking at what we can do to long term, but we just own the tunnel and the railway so we will need to talk to other landowners to come up with a solution and that will take time.”

Shelley Atlas said: “On the whole, announcements about disruption are getting better because we have been banging on about this for some time but on Friday they were a bit patchy because it took time to get the information through.

“Some commuters were advised to ‘go home’, others waited for buses, which had difficulties getting through and others gave up and worked from home.”