The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that an additional £17 million is to be invested into a major rail upgrade to freight services in Southampton, to support the seamless flow of goods across the country and strengthen links into Southampton’s docks.
Network Rail is already making improvements in the Southampton area. The Freightliner Maritime Terminal in Redbridge operates 24 hours a day, six days a week, and is the second busiest container port in the country. Around 800 containers pass through the site every day.
The terminal has capacity for around 14 freight trains a day with a maximum length of 520 metres. That will be increased to 775 metres, increasing capacity for freight between Southampton, the Midlands and beyond.
Announcing the extra investment, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The injection of funding into the expansion of freight capacity will have a profound effect. Not only will this lead to a greener and more cost-efficient way to transport freight from Southampton, but the economic benefits will also be substantial.
“Our freight industry has played an integral role through this pandemic, helping keep this country moving, and this investment will ensure it continues to support our economic recovery.”
New sidings are now in place to accommodate those longer trains. Some sections of track and switches and crossings still need to be modified and, to complete the project, Network Rail has to commission a new signalling system.
The track modifications will take place between October 2020 and January 2021 on the lines that lead to Southampton Western Docks and the Freightliner Maritime Terminal. This work will primarily take place in the early hours of the morning and will not impact on passenger services.
To commission the new signalling system, engineers will need to temporarily close sections of the railway network in January and February 2021, with passenger services being diverted or replaced by buses.
Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, commented: “The railway in Southampton plays a vital role in bringing goods into the country and sending exports overseas. Our upgrades will support up to 14 extra containers for each train, providing a great boost for Britain’s freight network and those businesses relying on it to transport goods to stock shops, and materials for industry.
“It will also help cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, as each container has around the same carrying capacity as a single Heavy Goods Vehicle.”
“To introduce these longer trains there will be some line closures in January and February 2021. We would like to advise our passengers to plan their journeys well in advance and check before travelling.”