UP TO £30m-worth of new track will be laid around Southampton as part of a £1bn package of improvements to the rail network in the south, it was revealed today.

Commuters travelling between Hampshire and London are being promised more and better services through the works, which include a £300m project to increase capacity at Waterloo station.

Rail bosses say the scheme is part of the largest investment in railway infrastructure since the Victorian era, and will help make the route between the capital and south coast one of the most efficient in Europe.

Unveiling its plans for five years from 2014, Network Rail said its improvements will make 20 per cent more seats available on overcrowded morning commuter services between Hampshire and London.

The overhaul, to be implemented by the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance, will see tracks renewed, more of the railway electrified, signalling enhanced, money spent on bridges and tunnels and improving buildings, as well as new machinery.

With more trains running on Hampshire’s rail network than ever before, the work will ease pressure on the ageing infrastructure, which Network Rail said will make it more reliable and able to cope.

Greater demand But Tim Shoveller, managing director for the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance, warned that despite “huge benefits to passengers” from the large investment, there will have to be trade-offs to deliver them.

He said: “The route out of London Waterloo across the south and south west of England is one of the busiest in Europe, with Waterloo station alone handling around 100m passengers per year - a figure which will only rise in the years to come.

“More passengers create a need for more trains, which places an even greater demand on an aging infrastructure which is 175 years old in parts.

“We will be investing heavily in increasing the network’s resilience and reliability and doing everything we can to be able to provide a railway which can accommodate the extra trains needed to cope with growing demand.

“As passenger and train numbers rise, the number of challenges increase and it becomes more complex than ever to run a reliable and cost-effective railway.

“As the network becomes increasingly full, particularly during peak periods, the rail industry must be able to make balanced and evidence-based choices between providing increased capacity, improving punctuality and driving down costs.

“The end result will be a better railway for everyone which will continue to encourage economic growth across the south and south west of England.”