UP to 800 new BMW Minis will be moved through the Port of Southampton each week after a new railway link was added.

Port operator ABP has invested £300,000 in the rail service for car exports.

It is the first automotive service to operate in the port’s Western Dock and means ABP’s rail services for the industry will reach both the Eastern and Western docks.

Alastair Welch, director at the Port of Southampton, said: “We are delighted to have welcomed this new automotive service to the Western Docks for BMW.

“As the UK’s number one export port for vehicles, we look forward to continuing to expand Southampton’s automotive offer by rail even further in the future.”

Southampton is the UK’s number one port for the automotive industry, handling around 900,000 vehicles a year.

ABP and its customer DB Cargo will move 600-800 Minis a week by rail.

ABP said the new service would not only strengthen its offering but also offer a greener and safer delivery, reducing the number of lorries on the roads.

The company says the Port of Southampton offers “ unparalleled rail connections” with the rest of the UK.

DB Cargo UK runs the rail service and Southampton Cargo Handling takes the vehicles off the trains.

Roger Neary, DB Cargo UK’s head of sales, said: “Utilising our fleet of specialised wagons, we currently operate finished vehicle rail movements throughout the UK, as well as international services for automotive components.

“We are delighted to be working with ABP and BMW to establish this new service into Southampton, the UK’s premier port for the automotive market.”

Southampton is the UK’s top port for exports, handling exports worth £40billion every year. It contributes £2.5bn to the UK economy each year and supports 45,600 jobs, ABP says.

The port handles, on average, 14million tonnes of commodities each year.

ABP is executing a five-year investment programme across the group, worth £1billion, designed to respond to the needs of the customers whose businesses rely on its ports for access to international and sometimes domestic markets.