“Please be patient.”
That is the plea from railway bosses after they revealed more than £20m of engineering works will see Southampton Central station closed at weekends for two months, causing travel chaos for passengers.
As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, trains running through the station will be cancelled and replaced by buses as part of the project, and some journeys will take up to an hour longer.
The man behind the scheme Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance’s infrastructure director Jim Morgan says the reason for it is because of the success of Southampton as a city.
Passenger numbers have gone up in the past ten years by more than 1.5m people compared to 2004, while business is booming at the port which is seeing more freight trains travelling in and out of Southampton.
He said: “There are 20 per cent more passengers now which means more carriages and trains and more wear and tear on the track, and there is a fantastic growth of freight, and freight is heavy and wears out the track.
“Southampton has done so well as a city and there are more trains going through the city.
“If we put it off it would be less reliable and more prone to failure and the people who use the railway need one that works properly. We are sorry for the inconvenience – obviously we do not like to inconvenience anybody – but we cannot think of any alternative way of doing it.”
The investment marks the biggest overhaul in the railway line since a £15m project to redevelop the tunnel back in 2010, which lasted nearly four weeks.
The project will see 80 people work on a three-mile stretch of line between Southampton Central station and Redbridge station, where they will replace 30 sets of points in the track.
Despite delayed journeys, a leading passenger group praised the scheme. Secretary of Railfuture Wessex, Charles Burns, said: “We welcome investment into rail infrastructure and sadly accept that without an easy alternative route to Bourne-mouth there has to be disruption in this instance and that is best done at weekends rather that during the week.”
Lines will be closed between Southampton Central and Southampton Airport every weekend until May 4, and a rail-replacement bus service will run every weekend up until May 4 when the work is expected to end.