THOUSANDS of train passengers will see their travel plans thrown into chaos by two months of weekend line closures at Southampton Central railway station.

Services running through the station will be cancelled and replaced by buses as part of a £20m improvement project which will run on weekends from March 8 to May 4.

The work will see 30 new sets of points added between Southampton Central and Redbridge stations, which the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance says will “improve the reliability of trains”.

The train company says there has been a huge increase in the numbers using trains at the station over the past ten years, now more than six million per year, which is putting increasing strain on infrastructure.

Line closures will start this weekend, with the line between Southampton Central and Brockenhurst closed on Saturday and Sunday. That line will also be closed on March 15, and on all weekends from March 16 to May 4.

Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance's infrastructure director Jim Morgan said: “This is a vital programme of investment to improve the reliability of train services for Southampton and the surrounding region.

“We recognise that this is not ideal and we are sorry for the inevitable disruption that will be caused to our passengers. We have sought to keep disruption to a minimum while we undertake this essential work.”

Starting on Saturday, anyone using the route between Southampton Central and Brockenhurst will have to take a rail-replacement bus service on weekends until May 4.

- Fast buses will run between Airport Parkway and Bournemouth, while buses will also run on local journeys between Airport Parkway, Brockenhurst, Eastleigh and Southampton Central. A rail replacement bus service will then transport passengers to Southampton Central and up to Bournemouth.

- Buses will also replace train services between Central and St Denys and Woolston.

- Services to Portsmouth will start and terminate at St Denys during the work.

-The South West Trains service between Salisbury and Romsey via Southampton Central and Eastleigh while only run between Salisbury and Romsey.

- First Great Western services will call at Eastleigh and Chandler's Ford instead of Southampton Central.