Network Rail is warning that the railway tunnel between Blackheath and Charlton in southeast London will close for ten weeks this summer, affecting Southeastern customers.

The mile-long tunnel opened in 1849 but has been increasingly suffering from leaks and water damage, mainly caused by brickwork damage caused by the freezing and thawing of rainwater, which filters through the ground into the tunnel.

Blackheath Tunnel (c) Network Rail

Although Network Rail says the tunnel structure is safe, the leaks and very wet conditions inside are damaging the track and electrical equipment, causing delays and speed restrictions. Over the last year, faults in the tunnel have been the cause of nearly 17 hours of delay to Southeastern passengers.

The tunnel will be closed between Saturday 1st June to Sunday 10th August inclusive, and trains that usually run between Dartford and Cannon Street via Lewisham will be diverted to run between Greenwich instead. People who usually travel to/from Charlton and Blackheath/Lewisham will be able to use the DLR to get to/from Greenwich.

While there will be no trains between Charlton and Lewisham – the diversion via Greenwich will see the diverted trains also calling at Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Greenwich, and Deptford stations — so a modest improvement in service for them, for a short while.

TfL map showing the affected area

During the tunnel closure, Network Rail will replace tens of thousands of bricks and install a new concrete tunnel lining to stop water leaking into the tunnel, which will be crucial for the reliable running of the railway long into the future. Drainage systems will be rebuilt and track work carried out, including ‘wet bed’ removal – these are waterlogged sections of track that cause bumpy train rides for customers. These additional works will mean less disruption for passengers in the long term.

The cost of the repairs is estimated at around £10 million.

Network Rail says they’ve opted for a blockade closure for ten weeks of continuous work, as the alternative would have been at least a year of weekend closures. They can cram the equivalent of more than 104 days of weekend work into 70 days of blockade closure.


There won’t be a rail replacement bus service, but rail tickets will be accepted on the 89, 54, 380 and 202 bus routes for the duration of the closure.

Customers with accessible needs will be able to make the journey by taxi between Blackheath and Charlton at Southeastern’s expense.

The full details are here.


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One comment
  1. Andrew says:

    10th August is a Saturday.

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