Train travellers urged to plan ahead as Network Rail closes New Forest and Christchurch line for five days for 'critical' maintenance
A BUSY stretch of railway through the New Forest will close for five days in November as engineers carry out major maintenance works.
Network Rail said shutting the line between Southampton and Bournemouth from Monday 1st to Friday 5th November will enable it to deliver a range of long-term improvements to make journeys more reliable and resilient to extreme weather.
Engineers will upgrade the track, signals and drainage between Totton and Bournemouth; and remove speed restrictions. The aim is to quicken South Western Railway (SWR) and Cross Country journeys through the area.
Claiming changes to travel patterns mean the railway is now busier at weekends, Network Rail maintained it had chosen a midweek closure rather than multiple weekend closures to minimise disruption.
Commuters are urged to plan ahead for their journeys over the five days and expect them to take longer as rail replacement buses are laid on.
Network Rail Wessex route director Mark Killick said: “To support the country building back from the pandemic and as a reflection of a rise in leisure and tourism travellers to the south coast, this critical work will be completed over five weekdays rather than closing the railway for a number of weekends.
“We never take the decision to close a busy stretch of railway lightly and have reviewed our approach carefully to confirm it is the best option.”
Works being carried out at several locations over the five days will include track level improvements at Brockenhurst, Sway and Hinton Admiral.
Drainage improvements will be made in the Sway area to help reduce delays and cancellations during extreme weather; and bridge maintenance in the Christchurch area will seek to ensure structures can support track and trains for years to come.
There will also be track and signalling maintenance at Totton, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst and Christchurch, as well as new rails installed between Hinton Admiral and Christchurch and new ballast and sleepers at Sway to improve reliability.
On the Monday buses will replace SWR services between Southampton Central and Bournemouth and between Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier.
Bournemouth to Manchester Piccadilly Cross Country services will terminate at Southampton Central, with buses replacing trains from both Southampton Airport Parkway and Southampton Central to Bournemouth. Buses will not call at Beaulieu Road.
From the Tuesday to Friday, SWR services between London Waterloo and Weymouth will terminate at Brockenhurst, with buses continuing to Bournemouth.
London Waterloo to Poole SWR services will terminate at Southampton Central, with buses taking over to Brockenhurst and Bournemouth.
Bournemouth to Manchester Piccadilly Cross Country Services will terminate at Southampton Central, with replacement buses from both Southampton Airport Parkway and Southampton Central to Bournemouth.
Alan Penlington, SWR’s customer experience director, said: “The work Network Rail are carrying out from 1st November will mean big improvements for our customers. Not just a more reliable and resilient service, but also visible improvements.
“I realise these works will mean significant disruption for our customers and I’d like to remind anyone who’s travelling to plan ahead to see if their journey is affected.”