The Anonymous Widower

Kent Railway Viaduct Set For £3.5m Makeover

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Advent.

This 3D image from Google Maps, shows Ashurst station.

I think that the viaduct is to the left of the station.

This is a description of the work from Katie Frost, Network Rail’s route director for Sussex.

Our railway has a host of Victorian structures that underpin the millions of journeys passengers take with us every year and we have to take good care of them. Mill Stream Viaduct is made of metal, and we need to give it a thorough refurbishment to keep it strong for the future, blasting the old paint off, repainting and repairing the metal sections, replacing the decking, the track and the timbers that support the track too.

Certainly, £3.5 million would seem a lot, if it was just a simple repainting.

What About The Electrification?

Network Rail have been faffing about, deciding how they will get twelve car electric services to Uckfield.

However, in the April 2022 Edition of Modern Railways, there was a short article, which was entitled Uckfield Third Rail is NR Priority, where this was said.

Electrification of the line between Hurst Green and Uckfield in East Sussex and remodelling of East Croydon are the top Network Rail investment priorities south of the river, according to Southern Region Managing Director John Halsall. He told Modern Railways that third rail is now the preferred option for the Uckfield line, as it would allow the route to use the pool of third-rail EMUs in the area. This is in preference to the plan involving overhead electrification and use of dual-voltage units put forward by then-Network Rail Director Chris Gibb in his 2017 report.

NR has put forward options for mitigating the safety risk involved with the third-rail system, including switching off the power in station areas when no trains are present and section isolation systems to protect track workers. ‘The Office of Rail and Road hasn’t yet concerned third rail would be acceptable, but we ark working out ways in which it could be’ Mr Halsall told Modern Railways. He added that bi-mode trains with batteries were not a feasible option on this line, as the 10-car trains in use on the route would not be able to draw sufficient charge between London and Hurst Green to power the train over the 25 miles to Uckfield.

I feel that whatever method is used to get electric trains to Uckfield, there may well be some extra weight on the Millstream Viaduct at Ashurst. So giving the viaduct a makeover, is probably prudent.

I get the impression from the last few Editions of Modern Railways, that there will be a need for battery-electric multiple units in Kent and Sussex.

  • Ashford and Ore is 25.4 miles – Electrified at both ends – Maximum trip – 25.4 miles.
  • Oxted and Uckfield is 25 miles – Electrified at one end – Maximum trip – 50 miles.
  • Hoo and Hoo Juncton is less than 10 miles – Electrified at one end – Maximum trip – 20 miles.

It would appear that the Uckfield trip will need bigger batteries or some form of charging at Uckfield.

Suppose though the following were to be done.

  • Create a third-rail battery-electric multiple unit, with a range of thirty miles.
  • These would be ideal for Ashford and Ore and the Hoo Branch.
  • Install charging stations at Ashurst on both platforms and at Uckfield on the single platform. These would either work through a pantograph or third rail.

Operation of the service during a round trip between London Bridge and Uckfield would be as follows.

  • London Bridge and Hurst Green – Uses electrification and charges batteries
  • Hurst Green and Ashurst – Uses batteries for 11 miles
  • Ashurst station – Tops up the batteries
  • Ashurst and Uckfield – Uses batteries for 14 miles
  • Uckfield station – Tops up the batteries
  • Uckfield and Ashurst – Uses batteries for 14 miles
  • Ashurst station – Tops up the batteries
  • Ashurst and Hurst Green – Uses batteries for 11 miles
  • Hurst Green and London Bridge – Uses electrification and charges batteries

Network Rail may use a different combination of chargers and battery size.


July 4, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. I’m a battery sceptic when it comes to this line. It’s not just overall length; there are some challenging gradients and curves. Batteries use scarce non-renewable resources from often quite ‘difficult’ locations, a point that should be factored in to every battery power proposal. And it will remove the advantage of being able to use 377s and other standard 3rd rail units – needless long-term expense, surely. Why complicate matters when all NR needs to do is lay down that 3rd rail and switch it on? Just get on with it, as one of Modern Railways’ respected columnists puts it.

    Comment by Stephen Spark | July 4, 2022 | Reply

    • I wouldn’t be surprised, that new third-rail is effectively banned, as a legal opinion has been given, that if say a young trespasser were to be killed, then millions of pounds would have to be paid out in compensation, because the risks of third-rail electrification are well-known.

      I’m no lawyer, but my wife was and my son is and I understand the way they think.

      It could end up with a Supreme Court ruling that all third rail electrification be removed. And that would include the London Underground!

      Comment by AnonW | July 4, 2022 | Reply

      • RSSB had a big piece of research going on over the criteria required to extend third rail which was supposed to have reported last December but it still hasn’t appeared. The plan being is the industry could then present a body of evidence to ORR to support extensions. This was likely to be based on only energising when a train was present. Its feasible but even with an hourly service that would be a taxing duty for mechanical DC Circuit breakers but solid state switching is doable these days albeit not good enough for safety at work compliance.

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | July 4, 2022

      • If any idiot starts running about on track its not NRs or Operators responsibility if they get killed… Its not a playground! End off! (Iit is restricted area in any case!)
        NRs opposition to 3rd rail is also rubbish, as they still have houndreds of miles of lines that have to be maintained as 3rd rail. What is a few extra (ie 25 miles) of line going to cost… And so thus operationally it also makes more sense to use the same system.
        Unless NR pays (which they would never) compensate the cost difference for having to run different type of stock on a line.

        Comment by Daniel Altmann | July 5, 2022

    • With intermediate charging its perfectly feasible to use battery units. JR East have about 15 BEMUs in use on a hilly branch line where the units have high winter heating loads and corresponding air con demands in summer to be factored in. Southern have plenty of 25kV/750V units that could be converted with batteries in the trailers with 25kV OH conductors at say Crowborough and Uckfield to give the batteries a fast charge. Ultimately I agree that extending the third rail is the logical solution but I just can’t seeing being allowed unless it made overtly complicated and thus importing extra cost and reliability issues. The other issue is NR are just incapable of delivering anything cost effectively anymore but at least in the rolling stock arena there is still competition which drives innovation and cost efficiency.

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | July 4, 2022 | Reply

  2. Given GTR have given four of their class 171’s to East Midlands Railway due to drop off in demand can’t see that 12 cars will ever be needed down here and actually the platforms were only lengthened for 10 cars about five years ago.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | July 4, 2022 | Reply

  3. If the paint that is being removed has lead in it that will increase the cost of the operation significantly.

    Comment by tops | July 4, 2022 | Reply

  4. […] In Kent Railway Viaduct Set For £3.5m Makeover, I wrote about Network Rail giving a viaduct a makeover, that will last for the next fifty years. […]

    Pingback by Bluebell Heritage Railway Planning Western Extension « The Anonymous Widower | July 7, 2022 | Reply

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