A MULTI-MILLION-POUND railway works project is well on track to deliver a raft of improvements for passengers.

Network Rail is coming to the end of its week-long blockade of the line between Bournemouth and Southampton.

Passengers have been using replacement buses since Monday while engineers set about carrying out a busy timetable of works.

Tom McNamee, project director, told the Daily Echo that Network Rail decided on a full Monday to Friday closure rather than weekend and overnight works after assessing trends in train users returning to services since lockdown.

Mr McNamee said there had been a stronger recovery in leisure passengers compared to commuter numbers.

As a result, the impact of the five-day blockade was seen as lower than a series of weekend closures.

This had a delivery performance and a financial benefit for Network Rail, Mr McNamee said.

Mr McNamee said the programme had decided to focus on five areas of the line “where we already have speed restrictions or are at risk of needing speed restrictions in the near future”.

The work this week has seen focused efforts on improvements in Totton, Brockenhurst, Sway, Pokesdown and between New Milton and Hinton Admiral.

“It is not just about efficiency and the extra delivery potential, but it is also about the quality of the work we can carry out,” said Mr McNamee. “We are giving the teams a good opportunity to use the best equipment they can. They are not having to rush in a three hour window.”

Once complete the work will lead to trains being able to travel at maximum speeds across the New Forest through addressing issues with power supply and track circuits. Mr McNamee said problems with the latter would mean signallers cannot be certain where trains are on the network and means they must travel at reduced speeds.

Parts of the track are often prone to flooding due to being located on low lying land. This week has seen steps taken to address this problem and at the same time address ‘rough ride’, which can make some stretches of the route bumpy for passengers.

The project manager said Network Rail is “ensuring we fill the blockade with as many opportunities as we can”.

An example of this was the decision to install a replacement 20-tonne power unit on the Lymington branch line after the initial project for this was scuppered earlier in the year.

This week has seen around 150 engineers working across the blockade area every day, with the overall project estimated to involve an investment in the region of £3million.

“We are on target to deliver our project scope and our expectation is to have the line back open for passengers on Saturday,” said Mr McNamee.