A major upgrade to the railway line in East Sussex is to be carried out.
The ‘much-needed’ upgrade will mean the line will close for four days in March, Network Rail said.
Buses will replace trains on all routes via Lewes – including those to and from Haywards Heath.
The works are scheduled for Thursday, March 7, to Sunday, March 10.
Paul Harwood, Network Rail director of investment, South East, said: “This is a much-needed upgrade to some of the oldest signalling in the country, with new state-of-the-art equipment providing passengers with more reliable journeys.
“I’d like to thank people for their patience while we complete the upgrade in March.
“There is never a good time to close the railway and the alternatives would’ve meant impacting services over the Easter or May bank holiday weekends.
“Following our recent discussions with local stakeholders we know this would’ve been unacceptable to the leisure and tourism industry here on the south coast.
“We’re working closely with our colleagues at Southern to ensure people are fully aware of the closures and the alternative travel options available to them.”
Network Rail engineers will be working around the clock to complete the final phase of work on a project to upgrade the old signalling system on the line between Lewes and Seaford with modern, more reliable technology to reduce delays for passengers.
The final commissioning, when the current system will be disconnected and the new system switched on, can only be carried out with a closure of the railway in the Lewes area, a spokesman said.
Services between Brighton and London will not affected but there will be no trains west of Eastbourne via Lewes as far as Brighton, Seaford and Haywards Heath.
A rail replacement bus service will operate throughout the affected area to keep passengers moving during the four days.
Keith Jipps, Infrastructure director for Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “This major investment will improve the reliability of signalling and therefore our services for passengers travelling on one of our key coastal routes.
“Working with Network Rail, we will publish detailed travel advice as soon as it is available.”
The upgrade will see signalling control of the Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford areas moved to Network Rail’s state-of-the-art route operating centre at Three Bridges, meaning that the signal boxes at Lewes, Newhaven Town and Newhaven Harbour will close, a spokesman said.
The project will also increase the number of trains able to use the diversionary route for London–Brighton services via Lewes to three trains per hour, helping to keep passengers moving during planned and unplanned disruption.
A rail link for the new aggregates facility at Newhaven Marine will also be provided, helping to take hundreds of heavy goods vehicles of local roads.
Over the four days, services will operate east of Eastbourne, via Hampden Park but not west of Eastbourne, via Hampden Park.
As part of the upgrade of the railway between Lewes and Seaford, additional weekend closures of the railway in the Lewes area will take place on:
Sunday, December 2
Saturday, December 15
Saturday, January 19, to Sunday, January 20
Sunday, February 3
Sunday, February 17
In addition to the work to upgrade the line between Lewes and Seaford, Network Rail is also working as part of a £300million government-funded programme to tackle delay hotspots and boost the reliability of the railway in the south east.
As part of this project, there will be significant changes to train services across the Southern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink networks and longer journey times for some passengers from Saturday, February 16, to Sunday, February 24, as well as a number of weekends, a spokesman said.
No trains will run between Three Bridges and Brighton or between Three Bridges and Lewes on these dates.
Brighton and stations to the west will have trains to and from London, but these will be diverted via Littlehampton and Horsham.
There will be no direct trains to London from Lewes or Eastbourne.
Passengers wishing to travel on these dates will need to allow considerably more time for their journeys and should expect to use either diverted trains via longer routes or a replacement bus or coach to connect with rail services, a spokesman said.
They are also advised to consider alternative routes, working from home (if possible), or travelling outside of peak times.
For more information, visit https://brightonmainline.co.uk.