Southampton rail tunnel expansion begins

30 November 2009

Excavation work began today on a £71m tunnel expansion project on Victorian-era railway tunnel in Shouthampton, England. The project will increase the frieght capacity of the tunnel and remove up to 50,000 lorries a year from the Southampton area’s roads.

By lowering the tunnel’s invert by 50cm, freight trucks of 9' 6" (2.9m)or ‘high-cube’ containers will be able to be transported efficiently by rail from the Port of Southampton across the country. Rail freight is a cheaper, quicker and more practical way of transporting goods around the country.

Richard O’Brien, Network Rail’s route director for Wessex, said: “Rail can provide a cheaper, greener and more practical way of transporting freight compared with road. This project aims to increase the amount of freight transported from Southampton by rail, which in turn will bring long-term benefits for city and the surrounding area.

“Of the 50 structures we’re upgrading, Southampton tunnel is by far the most significant. Previously it would have been necessary to fully close the tunnel for up to 12 weeks to carry out the upgrade. Today, using new technology and smarter ways of working, the full closure can be reduced to less than 30 days. We can assure passengers that we have made every effort to keep as many trains as possible running while we carry out this work to keep disruption to a minimum. We recommend passengers check their train times before they travel.”

New technology and work practices have significantly reduced the amount of time that the tunnel needs to be closed. The first part of the tunnel upgrade to lower the tracks starts on 30 November 2009, and will continue until 10 January 2010, whilst the second phase of the project is scheduled to be carried during the Christmas 2010 / New Year 2011 period.