A MAJOR landslip, which has caused serious disruption on the Hastings to London line, could take weeks to fix.
Recent heavy rainfall caused several landslips in the Wadhurst area on December 17 and 22, leading to chaos on the line, which includes Battle, Crowhurst, Robertsbridge and Etchingham stations.
On Monday (January 13), an emergency timetable came into force, with train operator Southeastern saying it will remain in place until Network Rail is able to make the embankment safe to allow trains to be run at normal line speed.
But Southeastern has admitted the work could take several weeks to complete.
In a recent letter to stakeholders, Mike Gibson, public affairs manager for Southeastern, explained: “The cause of the landslides has been the large amount of rain falling on already saturated ground.
“Between December 1 and January 1, Wadhurst had 188mm of rain - or more than twice the normal amount for December.
“Unfortunately for today’s rail travellers, Victorian railway engineers had little knowledge of soil strengths so they built very steep cuttings, which were cheaper to excavate.
“Now we are suffering the consequences of the rather optimistic construction.
“Slopes would be designed and cut much slacker today - to a 45 degree maximum angle in fact - and would have better drainage which explains why the high speed route stayed open through the storms.
“We are very sorry for the scale of the disruption on the Hastings line which comes on top of several weeks of poor performance caused by a combination of over running engineering works, severe weather conditions and other infrastructure related problems.
“We rely on Network Rail to manage and maintain its infrastructure so we can run train services and we are working with them to ensure this is done.
“We apologise for the disruption and thank you for your patience.”
As part of the revised timetable, morning peak trains will start earlier and some stops have been removed to allow for the speed restriction.
Off peak trains are re-timed between Wadhurst and Orpington and some northbound trains will not call at Sevenoaks and Orpington to recover time.
Passengers are being advised to check before travelling with National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50, or Southeastern customer services on 08457 48 49 50.
The revised timetable will be published in full on the Southeastern website at www.southeasternrailway.co.uk.
Or follow Southeastern on Twitter @Se_Railway and @NRE_SEastern.