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Crossrail: Network Rail plans extension to Gravesend

Network Rail has announced plans to extend Crossrail from Abbey Wood to Gravesend post 2019, in its Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for Kent.

Network Rail’s Kent RUS considers the High Speed 1 commuter rail service that will start serving Kent later this year as the backbone of its service growth, but says extending Crossrail could provide additional capacity at: “relatively low cost.”

Kent’s expanding population, notably at Ashford and in the Thames Gateway, and the sizable population being attracted by the new High Speed 1 commuter and international rail service will all contribute to increased demand.

However, because of the high nuber of trains terminating at London stations, there are very few options to run additional services into the capital.

High Speed 1 commuter services are due to launch in December 2009, are likely to bring immediate benefits for Kent passengers, says Network Rail

There are also further options to expand the service from six-car trains to 12, and to start high speed services further back within Kent to meet future needs. Not only would this add extra capacity into London, it could reduce overcrowding on traditional routes into Victoria and London Bridge.

Network Rail’s Kent route director Andrew Munden, said: “Working with our partners, Network Rail is planning for a bright future for Kent commuters. The coming of domestic high speed services is great news. In the next few years Network Rail will invest £1.1bn in Kent’s railway to meet passenger needs.

“The development of a robust strategy to improve the railway is an important part of our role, and the feedback we get as part of the consultation process will play an important part in shaping the future of the county’s railway,” he said.

Specific initiatives recommended by the RUS:

  • Beyond 2019, the RUS supports implementation of the safeguarded Crossrail extension beyond Abbey Wood to Gravesend, which could provide additional capacity to the Thames Gateway at a relatively low cost.
  • By December 2015, the completion of works at London Bridge as part of the Thameslink programme will provide further opportunities to enhance rail services from Kent. Trains operating from the Tonbridge area into Cannon Street are currently expected to be incorporated into the Thameslink network, calling at London Bridge and onwards to Blackfriars, Farringdon, St Pancras and further north. It is also likely that services operating on the Maidstone East line will operate through to the Thameslink network via Bromley South, again providing new journey opportunities for passengers.
  • The majority of high peak trains on the ‘classic’ Kent route are expected to be operating at full length by 2014. However, the RUS recommends that the opportunity is taken to lengthen the remaining short formation trains, which will mostly be on routes into Victoria. The RUS also recommends train lengthening in the shoulder peaks.
  • The RUS has identified potential benefits for extending the planned peak-only Southeastern Highspeed service between Rochester and St Pancras to start back from Faversham and lengthening this service to 12-car.
  • The RUS has also identified benefits in extending the planned peak only Southeastern Highspeed service between Ebbsfleet and St Pancras to start back from Ashford or Maidstone West (via Strood), though further work is necessary to determine which of these alternatives should be taken forward.
  • Improved access to stations is supported, especially public transport connections to Ebbsfleet.

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