Published: 09:38, 13 May 2021
| Updated: 09:45, 13 May 2021
A major railway line will be closed for nine days this summer while multi-million pound work to prevent landslips is carried out.
Engineers will be reinforcing the Bearsted cutting to prevent earth from tumbling onto the tracks below, as well as improving drainage and signalling in the area.
The cutting is more than 150 years old and requires a process called 'soil nailing', a form of strengthening to make sure it remains safe and resilient.
In the past decade there have been several examples of unplanned disruption for passengers as engineers have scrambled to the site to carry out urgent fixes after weather-related movements of the earth banks.
New Year’s Day was the most recent landslip, caused by heavy rain in the area.
Fiona Taylor, Network Rail's route director for Kent, said: "Line closures are always a last resort for us because of the disruption they cause passengers, but are sometimes unavoidable.
"Reducing the risk of landslips will really help to improve reliability for our passengers..."
"Extreme weather, as a result of climate change, is having a significant impact on our Victorian railway embankments. The works at Bearsted will make the cutting secure for a long time.
"We're scheduling them to cause minimum disruption, when fewer people are using services, so that passengers will benefit from the works as soon as possible."
As well as the nine-day closure in August, the line will also be shut for two weekends on July 3-4 and July 24-25.
Network Rail will also take the opportunity to address a number of other earthwork, drainage, track and signalling maintenance issues, including track realignment, rail grinding and flood mitigation.
Several stations on the route between Maidstone East and Ashford International will also benefit from various maintenance works which can be carried out while they are closed to passengers.
Network Rail and Southeastern, which operates the rail service on the line, say they want to give passengers as much advance notice as possible so that they can plan their journeys or make alternative arrangements, such as taking leave or working from home where possible.
Scott Brightwell, train services director at Southeastern, said: "It's vitally important that Network Rail carry out this essential work along this part of our route. Reducing the risk of landslips will really help to improve reliability for our passengers.
"We are working on the alternative travel arrangements and we will publish more detailed information for our customers in the coming weeks."