MAJOR upgrades to the rail terminal at the Port of Southampton will boost attempts to improve air quality in the city.

Associated British Ports (ABP) and Solent Stevedores have drawn up £17.5m plans to further improve a rail terminal that serves deep sea shipping lines.

It comes after ABP sought permission for a £12m lorry park north west of Dock Gate 20 in a bid to prevent lorries queuing in roads around the port.

Alastair Welch is regional director at the Port of Southampton.

He said: "This investment not only enhances our containers customer offer, it is also part of the Port of Southampton’s multimodal strategy into the future and our commitment to help improve air quality in the local area.”

The project, which involves a new 18-acre facility in the Western Docks, is due to be completed next year.

Shipping lines will have access to additional container handling services.

The work will extend the existing loading pad by 150m and create 84 reefer plug points as well as introducing a new track design.

Operated by Solent Stevedores, the rail terminal has been upgraded in the past five years and the latest scheme represents the next phase of investment in the site.

Daily Echo: Plans to upgrade part of the Port of Southampton have been unveiledPlans to upgrade part of the Port of Southampton have been unveiled (Image: Newsquest)

An ABP spokesman said: "This investment will further strengthen the rail offering for customers, giving them greater choice over their container placement and storage.

"By increasing the capacity for cargo to enter and leave the port by rail this latest investment supports long-term plans for accelerating improvements in local air quality.

"The work will take place across three stages to enable the rail terminal to continue operating."

The project comes after calls from the Western Docks Consultation Forum to cut air pollution.

Stuart Cullen, executive chairman of Solent Stevedores, added: “This is a significant project for us and the latest phase of investment for the Solent Rail Terminal.

"We continue to upgrade and enhance our rail operations and infrastructure in partnership with the port to support the growth of cargo movement by rail and air quality initiatives.”

ABP Southampton handles £40bn of UK exports every year. It contributes an annual £2.5bn to the UK economy as well as supporting 45,600 jobs across the country.

Established in 2000, Solent Stevedores has grown to generate annual revenue of more than £30m.

Earlier this year the business secured a new five-year deal to continue loading supplies and handling baggage for Saga Cruises in Southampton.

Every year it welcomes two million guests and handles more than three million suitcases, plus 120,000 tonnes of ships stores.