Eridge Station, a relatively quiet station in the middle of the countryside received a major upgrade that was formally opened last week, it’s now at long last an accessible station.

The station seems an odd choice for £1.9 million to be spent on a new lift, not long after £2.3 million was spent a few years ago on a new footbridge, but there’s a really good reason why a station in a village with nothing more than a pub and some houses received such largess.

It’s a commuter line into London, and thanks to a legacy of when fares were lower due to poor service, it’s still marginally cheaper to catch trains from Eridge than from nearby Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough. As a result, people who live on the edges of the two larger towns, tend to commute from Eridge, even though it only has two trains an hour in the rush hours, and less the rest of the time.

So a small station in the middle of the countryside is unexpectedly busy.

However, despite having just a handful of trains each day, it has four platforms, a legacy of earlier times, as the station sat on a line that had junctions to the south and north for five railways, so people would often change trains at Eridge.

Today the main railway is just a single track shuttle service, serving a station with four platforms.

Two of the other platforms though are in use, and often busier than the national rail service, as they’re used by the Spa Valley Railway, a steam heritage line that took over part of the railway that closed in 1985, and is also the only heritage railway in the UK to run their railway tracks alongside a live National Rail track.

The station, which opened in 1868 is built as a classic of the time, with a road bridge and ticket office above the railway, and stairs down to two island platforms for four railway lines.

A few years ago, a routine survey found that the footbridge needed major works, and in the end, they replaced it with a modern bridge, which took place in 2018. The old footbridge had glazed windows at the top level, but the stairs were open to the elements. The replacement put glass into the stairs as well, which apart from reducing wear from bad weather, is also more pleasant for passengers. Because they matched the new design to the old design, there have been comments from some passengers that they think the footbridge was repaired and are not aware that it’s an entirely new structure.

When it was built, the new footbridge did not include a lift, as at the time, funding didn’t exist for one to be added.

After securing £1.9 million from the Department for Transport’s Access for All fund, a new lift was added, but this proved to be a complex engineering job — hence a visit last week to see what caused the challenges.

The initial problem was where to put the lift, and in the end, it was decided to block off the outside railway running past Platform 1, as there are no plans or expectations that they will ever need two platforms again for National Rail services. That gave them the space to insert the lift shaft.

However, free-standing lift shafts concentrate a lot of weight for the brick tower into a fairly small amount of space, which means deeper than expected foundations to stop them sinking into the ground — and in this case, they go down a considerable 15 metres into the soft soil. The foundations are deeper than the lift shaft is high.

It took about six months just to prepare the site for the lift shaft to be built, moving all the old utilities and a sewer under the railway, the piling, construction of a deep concrete box under the lift, and building a motor engine behind the lift. As this is a hydraulic lift, the motor doesn’t need to be above/below the lift, and can sit behind it, which makes it a bit easier to maintain.

At the top of the lift, they had a slight complication in how the lift connects to the footbridge, and in the end what people won’t see is that the two are essentially still separate structures, with the floor extension and roof attached to the lift, and loosely connected to the footbridge. A thin cosmetic join links them, but the whole lift side of the footbridge hangs off the lift tower to avoid putting all the extra, and at the time unplanned, weight onto the footbridge.

Elsewhere on the station, the old waiting room was refurbished, and heritage signs were reinstated, although completed late last year, the formal opening event took place last week with Rail Minister Wendy Morton and local MP, Nusrat Ghani ceremonially pressing the lift button.

For the future, there’s a campaign to replace the belching Class 171 diesel trains that serve the station, which are now some of the worst polluting trains on the network, but that requires electrification of the line. There’s also an unrelated campaign to reopen part of the line past its current terminus in Uckfield to link it back up with Lewes, which would allow it to then act as a backup railway if the main Brighton line is closed.

Although there is now step-free access with a lift for the Southern customers, that was not added to the other platforms, used by the heritage railway. That’s because they have ambitions to extend the heritage line further south, and blocking the outer railway platform with a lift shaft would be a problem.

So, the contractor, BAM Nuttall were able to build a ramp next to the platform that leads to the public car park next to the station. Heritage rail passengers can then use the ramp to get into the station.

And the slightly unusual sight of a steam train and a Southern train sitting next to each other at Eridge continues.


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  1. Paul Dabrowski says:

    Ho did you get there? Southern has a habit of cancelling trains creating 2-hour gaps frequently, failing to refuel the class 171s adequately and running them London Bridge-East Croydon (abandoning the freehold section Hurst Green-Uckfield) and the latest ‘excuse’ was that the cancellation was due to a failure of the electricity supply on the branch! Such sheer incompetence that Southern’s management should be tied to the tracks and a Spa Valley heritage loco run back and forth over them in the hope of instructing them on how to run a railway.

  2. mikeH says:

    If the line were to be reinstated to reach Lewes and become a diversionary route to Brighton maybe they would need that second track again.

    • ianVisits says:

      If such a situation were to occur, it would be easier and cheaper to build a passing loop at a suitable location for the rare occasions where more than the usual number of trains needed to use the line.

  3. Laura G says:

    Do you know why disabled passengers are not being allowed to use the ramp?

    • ianVisits says:

      Would be best to ask the member of staff who stopped you from using it why they are doing that.

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