Hastings line reopened after 20 days

A landslip closed the Hastings line between Tonbridge and Robertsbridge for 20 days.

The railway line between Tonbridge in Kent and Robertsbridge in East Sussex has reopened, having been closed since a landslip at High Brooms was detected by remote sensors in the early hours of Monday 1 February.

Since then, work has been taking place to protect the railway along a 150-metre stretch of cutting.

While the railway was closed, Network Rail took advantage of the situation and also repaired a potential landslip at the southern end of Wadhurst Tunnel.

Fiona Taylor, Network Rail.

Fiona Taylor, Network Rail route director for Kent, said: “It is absolutely essential that our railway is safe to travel on, and the work we’ve done will help to improve the resilience of this line for years to come.

“By working smartly, we have been able to accelerate some of the repairs needed on a nearby site at Wadhurst Tunnel. I am pleased that we were able to fully reopen the London to Hastings line on Saturday.

“This line, and several others across the Southern region, are unfortunately suffering from landslips caused by the higher than average rainfall during this and several recent winters. This is driven by the changes we’re seeing in our climate. We aim to detect these failures in advance, repairing them rapidly and safely as part of our plans to make our railway resilient for the future.”

A previous speed limit which was in place on the line has also been lifted, allowing faster journeys for passengers. Soil nailing will now be completed at the site, with the rail line open, to finalise the works.

BAM Nuttall used a ‘spider’ excavator to reduce the need for rope access on the steep slopes.

The slippage at High Brooms was picked up by remote sensors which had been in place following two previous smaller slippages in the same area. The permanent fix along approximately 150 metres of the 160-year-old cutting included re-grading it, soil nailing and placing 3,215m² of rockfall netting over the top to ensure no more slippage occurs. Over 5,000 tonnes of spoil was removed from the site to make the repair.

Due to the complex nature of the local clay-based ground conditions, the team used a ‘spider excavator’ to reduce the need for rope access.

Huw Jones, BAM Nuttall.

Huw Jones, divisional director rail for contractor BAM Nuttall, commented: “This work demonstrates the ingenuity, responsiveness and broad-based skillset of our team. The nature of the soil conditions in this location meant that our ground engineering expertise was invaluable.

“Despite the current lockdown, a normal rail services in the South East is vital to the regional economy. Working hand-in-hand with our rail supply chain partners, we were able to get the line open again less than three weeks after the slip was detected. I’d like to thank the whole team for its dedication and commitment to excellence over this period.”

The Hastings line. (map created from OpenStreetMap project data, collected by the community)

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