THE New Forest will get a share of a £2bn railway investment aimed at improving safety and reliability.
Network Rail, the organisation responsible for the upkeep of the UK’s tracks, will spend the money on projects across the South Western Railway network between 2019 and 2024, including renewing the mainline power system in the New Forest area.
The announcement comes after the Office of Road and Rail regulator showed in July how on-time trains in the region slumped from 90.5% in 2015/16 to 84.3% in 2017/18.
More than two-thirds (68%) of these delays were blamed on Network Rail. Even though incidents had remained stable, the report said, it was taking longer to fix issues.
Becky Lumlock, route managing director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said: “We now have more money than ever before to invest in this route and make a real difference to people’s journeys – that’s great news for the people of Hampshire.
“With almost a quarter of billion passenger journeys a year, this part of the railway is under enormous pressure. The next five years are about making sure our tracks, our signals, our bridges and everything in between, are in first-class condition and can support this growing demand.
“We know we still have much to do to improve train performance on our route and, working with South Western Railway, this funding will help us do that for the communities we serve.”
Network Rail said the £2bn figure was a more than 20% increase on the existing five-year budget to reduce infrastructure failures and avoid speed restrictions.
Other works in Hampshire outside the New Forest include track renewals at six key junctions such as Eastleigh, strengthening and refurbishing four bridges, installing new signalling, and upgrading level crossings from half to full barriers.
A Network Rail spokesperson said it was too soon to judge how the works would affect services but any engineering would take place during quieter times.