RAIL passengers are facing a week-long line closures as engineers prepare to complete a major improvement scheme near Romsey.

Next week the lines between Southampton Central and two other stations - Brockenhurst and Romsey - will close as engineers finish a £17m upgrade for freight services.

Engineers are remodelling lines used by freight trains to access the Port of Southampton.

A mile of new track, 22 new signals and 14 new sets of switches and crossings – which allow trains to move between tracks – have been installed to transform the railway and the way freight services are handled.

To complete the project engineers need to commission the new signals in a line closure starting next Saturday.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: "The improved railway means freight trains will no longer need to move in and out of Freightliner’s Maritime Terminal to load and unload goods.

"The efficiency of freight operations will be boosted by as much as 30%.

"It also brings environmental benefits, as longer freight trains mean will cut down on the number of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) on the roads.

"Each train will be able to carry up to 14 extra containers – the equivalent of 14 HGVs - to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions."

During the closure passenger services between Southampton Central and Brockenhurst and Romsey will be replaced by buses.

Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, said: “The line closure will bring the core work of this project to an end, and with it, huge benefits to our freight operators and the local environment.

"It’s vital that we continue to modernise the rail network.

"We're grateful to our passengers and those living close to the railway in Southampton for their patience while we finish this work.”

Charlene Wallace, Network Rail’s director of freight, national passenger and customer experience, added: “We’re delighted to see this programme moving forward, building on the work already undertaken in Southampton that is helping our customers run longer and heavier trains.

"We’re committed to getting more freight onto rail and schemes like this give the sector the boost it needs to deliver.”