Over £1.8 billion spent across the south on improvements with passengers returning to the railway more than 18 months after the first lockdown, Network Rail’s Wessex route says “welcome back”: Social distancing while painting Guildford footbridge!

Wednesday 1 Sep 2021

Over £1.8 billion spent across the south on improvements with passengers returning to the railway more than 18 months after the first lockdown, Network Rail’s Wessex route says “welcome back”

Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
  • Network Rail Wessex route, which maintains and operates tracks from Waterloo to Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, and Wiltshire, spent almost £580m maintaining and upgrading the railway during lockdown, so passengers came back to a better railway
  • Enhancements worth nearly £60m included upgrades to track and signalling at Guildford station, Southampton, and the Heart of Wessex line
  • Passengers welcomed back with enhanced cleaning and advised to wear masks in crowded stations.

Network Rail’s Wessex route has invested almost £580m in the railway to support the country in its mission to ‘build back better’ so passengers can feel confident and safe when they return to travelling by train.

Even at the height of the pandemic, Network Rail was working to keep trains moving for critical workers, such as NHS staff, who continued to travel by train, as well as making sure thousands of tonnes of vital goods, like food, fuel and medical supplies, were transported by freight trains every day.

This included a major upgrade of Guildford station’s tracks and signals, improvements to tracks on the Heart of Wessex line, a rebuilding of the railway in the Southampton docks area to allow longer freight trains to run, transporting more goods, and an upgrade to Feltham station in Middlesex.

John Halsall, Network Rail Southern region managing director, said: “We’re really excited to welcome more passengers back to the railway now that the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

“I want to pay tribute to the thousands of Network Rail and train operator colleagues who have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to keep the country moving during this incredibly challenging time.

“Our passengers deserve to travel with confidence, so we’ve been working hard to keep you safe with enhanced cleaning and new one-way systems to avoid crowding, and we’re asking passengers to continue to wear face coverings in crowded spaces out of respect to others.”

 Claire Mann, managing director of South Western Railway, said: “It’s great news that Network Rail has made such good progress in improving the infrastructure that our customers rely on every day.

“This work complements the enhancements that we at South Western Railway have made over the last 18 months, including faster Wi-Fi, upgraded station facilities and accessibility improvements – to name just a few.

“Improving our railway is a process rather than an event, and we are continually working to improve our services – including by learning from our mistakes when things go wrong.”

Case study

The railway’s own key workers, including signallers and maintenance teams, worked day in day out in the national effort to keep the rail network open and support the country through this challenging time.

One of those was Adam Kotulecki, a senior project manager working in Southampton on the freight train lengthening project. He said: “We had over 600 employees coming into the site during the project.

“It was of paramount importance that we not only kept colleagues safe by using social distancing, but their loved ones safe too. A lot of our staff stayed down on the site – many lived hundreds of miles away – so they could dedicate and focus on the work, and not put their loved ones in any danger.

“For nine months, I moved out of my house and didn’t get to see my own family – even my wedding was cancelled due to the pandemic. My life needed to change, and I was one hundred per cent committed to my job and the successful delivery of the project.

“We hope that when passengers do come back, they will see a more reliable network.”

Contact information

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Martin Spencer

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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