Published: 15:08, 11 February 2021
| Updated: 11:27, 24 February 2021
A major upgrade to a 40-year-old rail network heading into London starting this weekend will take four years to complete.
The overhaul to track and signals on the approach to London Victoria for passengers from Kent, south London and Sussex is aiming to replace and modernise the system installed in the 1980s.
The massive project is set to begin imminently on lines throughout the south London area and will be completed in 2025, says Network Rail.
Routes will be affected on the approach to the capital terminus used by Southern and Southeastern trains from Sussex and Kent.
The first phase of work will take place on selected weekends between Victoria, Clapham Junction and Balham and the West London lines from Clapham to Shepherds Bush this month until Christmas 2022.
Further upgrades to the lines between Tulse Hill, Peckham Rye and Crystal Palace, and between Nunhead, Herne Hill and the Battersea area will follow between 2022 and 2025
Network Rail says the extensive programme will help to improve reliability on the network and ensure passenger and freight trains are able to run to schedule.
Despite the pandemic seeing the number of passengers decrease on the rail network, it is expected with the vaccination programme picking up throughout the year that life could return to normal during 2021.
This would lead to more commuters on the rail network and people visiting the capital for leisure trips.
Shaun King, Network Rail route director for Sussex, said: “It’s vital that we continue to modernise the rail network so that we can build back better, stronger and more reliable than ever before for passengers and freight users.
“Much of the track and signalling in South London is more than 40 years old and it’s also some of the most intensively used in the country.
“The work we are doing on the lines into Victoria over the next few years will keep passengers moving safely and reliably long into the future.”
Journeys will be impacted at weekends due to the work taking place meaning fewer trains will be running.
"It’s vital that we continue to modernise the rail network so that we can build back better, stronger and more reliable than ever before..."
No trains will run at all between Victoria and East Croydon at weekends and bank holidays during the programme with most services diverted to London Bridge.
A limited rail replacement bus service will serve local services between East Croydon and Clapham Junction.
Southern Customer Services Director Chris Fowler said: “The route to Victoria is one of our busiest and a signal failure or track fault here creates delays across the south east.
"That’s why we welcome Network Rail’s initiative and will support them by altering our train service and arranging alternative transport each weekend their engineers are working.”
The multi-million project will see 93 new LED signals installed, 17 signal gantries with new structures, three new power supply points for signalling and points heating, 186 new train detection sensors.
The scheme will require 200km of new signalling, telecoms and power supply cables to upgrade eight main junctions and 50 points.
Control for the entire system will be moved from the 1970s Victoria Area Signalling Centre to the modern state-of-the-art Three Bridges Rail Operating Centre for the Clapham and Balham areas.
All tickets will be accepted on London Underground services between Victoria, London Bridge and Balham and London Buses between Balham and Streatham Hill.
Passengers will also be able to use tickets on South West Railway network between Clapham Junction and London Waterloo.
The first weekend of works will take place from Saturday with the following days planned:
Network Rail says further weekends will be required and will be announced at a later date.
Nine-day closures between Christmas Day and January 2 in both 2022 and 2023 have already been scheduled.
For more on the project visit networkrail.co.uk/Victoriaresignalling