By Connor Steel
FAREHAM commuters have been warned of potential travel disruption later next month as Network Rail confirmed the closure of a key route for nine days; which will allow engineers to undertake work on a very vulnerable stretch of railway alongside other tasks to improve customer experience for users of all services.
The railway route between Eastleigh and Fareham will close for a period of nine days including two weekends; starting on June 25 (Saturday) and finishing on July 4 (Sunday). None of the average thirty eight trains will run the route in both directions with replacement bus services and diversions set to be in place; causing potential disruption to commuters wanting to travel to London Waterloo / Victoria and Winchester alongside other key stops that run from Fareham Train Station.
The key purpose of the work will see engineers install retaining walls on a steep-sided cutting leading to Fareham Tunnel between Hedge End and Botley Stations, which Network Rail said needs ‘major work to improve’ due to extreme weather alongside natural deterioration. Built in 1841 the cutting has only seen one major incident in 2014 when a landslip at Botley caused services to be suspended for nearly five weeks.
Team members at Network Rail will furthermore use the closure to complete a list of forty-two individual jobs; including removing rail defects, testing power supplies, point signalling improvements, drainage work and other tasks to ensure the route is better equipped to deal with extreme weather conditions. Litter and graffiti will also be removed from Fareham / Cosham train stations, whilst Eastleigh Yard will see important development to help freight and engineering trains working throughout the country.
Network Rail’s route director for Wessex, Mark Killick, said in a short statement: “By doing this work in a nine-day chunk it will mean we’re closing the railway for less time overall – and fewer weekends in particular. We’re also using the time to do a whole host of jobs, such as track improvements, maintenance, and inspections that we would normally do by closing the route at weekends.”
“While I appreciate that it’s going to mean longer journeys and some disruption for that period, it will also mean a safer and more reliable railway – and one that’s open for business as much as possible. I would ask customers to plan their journeys that week so they don’t get caught out by the changes as we’ve worked hard to provide diversions and buses to keep people moving.”
SWR’s Customer Experience Director Christian Neill added his own thoughts, saying: “We understand that a nine-day closure of the railway will significantly affect customers using the line between Eastleigh and Fareham, but this is the most effective and efficient way of delivering essential improvements. By spending time engineering a permanent solution, as well as taking the opportunity to carry out other maintenance and improvements, customers will experience greater reliability on this section of railway.
“We’ll be doing all we can to keep people moving and rail replacement buses will be in operation. Some services that would usually use this line are also diverted or revised, meaning customers may have to change trains, so we’re urging anyone planning a journey through this area to check before they travel. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding whilst these vital works take place.”
To find out more information on this closure readers can visit the below link, including updates and any potential issues: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/wessex/eastleigh-to-fareham/.
PICTURED BY NETWORK RAIL: Sign welcoming commuters to Fareham Train Station on platform two.