Sussex rail boss praises staff and passengers after £643m investment in infrastructure

The boss of a rail company has thanked passengers for their support during the coronavirus pandemic.

John Halsall, Network Rail Southern region managing director, said the firm is looking forward to welcoming back more passengers as schools return.

He added: “Passengers have been really supportive of what we’re doing. Saying ‘we understand you need to maintain the railway’.

“I’m really grateful to passengers for working with us to improve their railway. It’s brilliant – we’re really appreciative.”

Chris Fowler, customer services director for Southern Rail

Millions of pounds of work has been carried out on railways in Sussex – the most recent major work being a £22m nine day closure on the Arun Valley line.

The railway was shut while essential maintenance was carried out, bringing equipment from the 1980s up to date.

During lockdown Network Rail Sussex has spent more than £643m maintaining and upgrading the railway. The route covers tracks from London Victoria and London Bridge to commuter towns of south London, parts of Surrey, Croydon and Brighton.

Even at the height of the pandemic, Network Rail was working to keep trains running for critical workers, such as NHS staff, as well as making sure thousands of tonnes of vital goods, like food, fuel and medical supplies, were transported by freight trains every day, the firm said.

The £22m upgrade improved reliability for passengers.

This included the continued work to upgrading Gatwick station, the work to, improve access at Crawley and upgrade the signalling between London Victoria, Clapham and Balham.

John added: “We’re really excited to welcome more passengers back to the railway now that the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

“I want to pay tribute to the thousands of Network Rail and train operator colleagues who have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to keep the country moving during this incredibly challenging time.

“Our passengers deserve to travel with confidence, so we’ve been working hard to keep you safe with enhanced cleaning and new one-way systems to avoid crowding, and we’re asking passengers to continue to wear face coverings in crowded spaces out of respect to others.”

Chris Fowler, customer services director for Southern, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming customers back on board. Over the past year, our colleagues have worked hard to keep services running to support key workers and essential travel.

“We’ve also continued to carry out our multi-million-pound, network-wide station improvement programme. Involving more than 1,000 projects and 250 stations – we’re confident that returning customers will enjoy a better station experience.”