The decision was taken following a series of meetings between Network Rail and councils, MPs and traders in Romsey at which concern was raised about the greater impact the work would have if carried out as originally planned in the lead up to Christmas 2011.
Richard O’Brien, Network Rail’s route managing director for Wessex, said: “Wherever possible we do what we can to keep the impact of important railway upgrade projects to a minimum for passengers, communities and businesses. We have listened to the concerns of people in Romsey and found an opportunity to reschedule the work for Spring next year, which was their preferred alternative, in a way which does not delay the overall project, cause extra disruption for passengers or increase the costs to the taxpayer. We appreciate the constructive dialogue we have had with all the groups and individuals with an interest in this project.”
Councillor Mel Kendal, executive member for environment and transport at Hampshire County Council, said: “We welcome this decision by Network Rail. The county and borough councils were concerned about the traffic impact of works during the busy Christmas season. This change avoids conflict with other planned roadworks in the area and creates an opportunity for everyone to work together to minimise disruption. The county council also welcomes Network Rail’s commitment to improve the railway infrastructure which will remove a significant amount of heavy freight from the roads.”
The bridge replacement at Romsey is part of a project to upgrade the route from Southampton to Basingstoke via Romsey and Andover, in addition to the Eastleigh to Romsey line, to transport larger, 9’6” high-cube freight containers by train more efficiently. The works require 17 bridges to be knocked down and rebuilt; the track to be altered at 11 locations and station canopies at Andover, Romsey and Whitchurch to be adjusted. Two redundant bridges will be demolished without being replaced and three further bridges will be modified without having to rebuild them.
Upgrading the rail routes out of Southampton allows freight trains to move goods, including food, clothing, electronics and other consumer products, around Britain in a quicker, cheaper, greener and more practical way, and help remove thousands of lorries off the roads.
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