A TRAIN line will close for nine days leaving commuters facing long delays.

The branch line between Southend Victoria and Wickford will shut completely for the half-term holiday in late May and over the Christmas break.

The completion of the £46million project to replace the entire overhead wiring system and structures on the railway between Southend Victoria and Shenfield will involve complete closure from May 25 June 2.

Train services will also be suspended on the branch line between Christmas and New Year, as work is undertaken on the complex junction at Wickford, as well as overnight during weekends and mid week for more than a year.

Greater Anglia says the new plan will see a reduction of 11 weeks of midweek night works and six weekend works compared to previous plans. This will enable the majority of the work in the project to finish two months early in March 2020, instead of May 2020.

The overhead wires and supporting structures which power Greater Anglia’s trains are more than 60-years-old.

The wires can sag in hot weather leading to speed restrictions being imposed.

By installing a new auto tension system, this will help keep the wires at the correct tension in the hot weather and avoid the need to impose speed restrictions.

The company says rail passengers, who have seen their trains replaced with buses during late night, mid-weeks and at weekends, have complained about the length of time the project is taking and the inconvenience it has caused so the plans have been changed.

Over the last few months, Greater Anglia and Network Rail have looked at what can be done to speed up the works and for them to be carried out at times which are less inconvenient for customers.

Thurrock Gazette:

Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois said: “I have frequently raised in Parliament the frustration of my constituents at the seemingly endless engineering works on the Southend Victoria line and the need to use buses as a result.

"I have raised this with Greater Anglia and Network Rail, including personally with the chief executives of both companies.

“On the one hand it is good news that the engineering works will now be completed in the Spring of 2020, but part of the price for this is the nine-day closure at Whitsun, which is a considerable inconvenience.

"Overall, now that both companies have promised to finish the works early it is critically important they both keep their word.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director said: “We are pleased that we have been able to work with Network Rail to speed up completion of this project, as we know how unhappy our customers are about the disruption it has caused.

“I’d like to reassure passengers that we will have plenty of rail replacement buses.”