The Portsmouth Direct line will shut for nine consecutive days between Guildford and Petersfield this weekend for a major upgrade that will tackle delays for South Western Railway passengers.
Buses will replace trains between Guildford and Petersfield as engineers work on critical track maintenance, and upgrades to signalling, level crossings and stations.
The work is part of a £94 million programme of delay-busting improvements between Farncombe and Petersfield that will eventually replace the 1970s signalling - the traffic lights of the railway with a state-of-the-art system controlled from Basingstoke Rail Operating Centre.
Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, said: “When the resignalling is finished in 2024, passengers travelling between London Waterloo and Portsmouth will enjoy a much more reliable railway, with fewer delays.
“There’s never a good time to close such a busy part of the network, but doing the work over nine consecutive days means we can minimise disruption for passengers, the people who live by the railway and the wider economy.
“We’re working closely with South Western Railway to make sure people can still travel, but I would encourage passengers to plan ahead and check before you travel.”
Network Rail’s Wessex Route successfully carried out two extended line closures last year, delivering major improvements much quicker than the traditional approach of a series of weekend closures over many years.
Christian Neill, SWR’s Customer Experience Director, said: “The work taking place on the Portsmouth line marks the start of a huge investment in railway infrastructure which will improve customer journeys for years to come.
"I realise these works will mean disruption for our customers; however, replacement buses will be in operation wherever lines need to be closed and I’d encourage anyone traveling with us to check to see if their journey will be affected. I’d also like to thank our customers for their patience whilst these essential works are carried out."
During the closure, engineers will carry out much of the preparation work for the resignalling programme, including laying new cables at Farncombe East, Milford, Haslemere, Princes Bridge and Petersfield level crossings.
When the whole programme is complete in 2024, 12 level crossings on the route will be upgraded to make them safer for drivers and pedestrians.
Engineers will also carry out critical track maintenance work, including drainage improvements to reduce flood-related delays, as well as replacing the wheel timbers – the heavy wooden blocks which support the track – on the bridge over the River Wey.
To squeeze as much work into the closure as possible to reduce future disruption to passengers, engineers will also be resurfacing Liss level crossing, resurfacing both platforms at Witley station, as well as installing tactile paving for blind and partially sighted people, and brightening things up with a lick of paint.
They will also resurface the car park at Godalming station and repair the canopy on platform 2 to keep passengers dry while they wait, plus a fresh coat of paint.
The resignalling scheme, combined with new and improved switches and crossings – which allow trains to move from one track to another – at Petersfield and Haslemere, will increase the speed at which trains can travel on the line.
All combined it will provide a more reliable railway, faster train services and more capacity, providing the opportunity to run more trains when work is complete in 2024.
As part of the Portsmouth Direct Upgrade there will be a nine-day closure between Guildford and Petersfield from Saturday 12 to Sunday 20 February 2022.
Engineers will begin preparations for the new signalling system while also carrying out jobs including maintenance on track, bridges, level crossings and drainage systems.
On Saturday 12 February, then between Monday 14 and Sunday 20 February, South Western Railway (SWR) services will start and terminate at Guildford.
On Sunday 13 February, a rail shuttle service will operate between Havant and Portsmouth Harbour, with buses replacing trains from Guildford to Havant.
On Sunday 20 February, Great Western Railway (GWR) services between Gatwick Airport and Redhill will terminate at Guildford. Buses will replace trains between Guildford and Shalford.
The section of line from Farncombe to Petersfield is signalled from Victorian signalboxes at Farncombe, Petersfield and Haslemere, using 1970s relay-based technology to control the signals and maintain safety.
Petersfield and Farncombe have small control panels and Haslemere still uses a lever-frame to control colour-light signals.
From 2024, there are plans to switch on 90 new signals, a digital system controlled from our state-of-the-art Basingstoke Rail Operating Centre.