THE rail line between Southend Victoria and Wickford is to shut down for nine days as engineers work around the clock on a £46million improvement project.

So, what's happening?

From Saturday to June 2, more than 100 engineers will be working 24 hours a day to replace the overhead wires and supporting structures which power the Greater Anglia trains, due to them being 60 years old.

The work will prevent overhead wires getting tangled with the train, which causes speed restrictions and delays.

What will be happening?

The nine-day project will involve the replacement of 27.8km of overhead wire, the removal of 33 redundant structures and bringing two electrified train crossovers into service.

What are people saying about it?

South Essex commuters are frustrated but also accept that engineering work is needed from time to time.

John Sledge, 40, of Southend, said: “I travel into London Liverpool Street every working day, so it will cause some problems, we have known a while so plans are in place, but it will probably still add an hour a day.

“It is a tricky one, you feel frustrated about the closures, but in reality they have timed it quite well.

“Only four of the nine days are traditionally working days, because of the bank holiday and weekends.

“I would like to think most of us commuters can cope with four days of disruption for the sake of some work that is done once every 60 years.”

Give me some detail!

A new auto tension system which adapts to temperature changes will also be installed to help keep the wires at the correct tension in the hot weather, where lines usually sag.

The development is under way with the hope of improving the reliability of services for passengers on the Southend Victoria line for many years to come.

The closure of the line will mean the bulk of the work will finish two months earlier than expected, with 11 fewer mid-week closures and six fewer weekend closures.

More than 500 structures that support the wires at the correct height and tension will also be replaced as part of the £46m project.

What are the long-term benefits?

THE man in charge of the £46million project to improve the train lines has assured passengers of the long-term benefits of the nine-day closure.

Project manager James Hill will be overseeing the entire project until it finishes in March 2020.

He explained his role and the reasons behind the works, saying: “I’ve been involved in the planning and delivery of the project which will take place between Southend Victoria and Wickford.

“Because the age of the equipment which provides power to the trains is 60 years old, having this work take place will prevent the overhead wires from sagging when the weather is hot, which results in speed restrictions of 20 or 30 miles an hour.

“Without these works taking place, there is also a risk of catastrophic failure.

“To repair, this would require two or three days closure in a busy and peak time.”

He said passengers were consulted by Greater Anglia, who are working with Network Rail, on when they thought it would be best for the works to take place.

Mr Hill added: “It was found they weren’t happy that the works would finish next May as originally planned, that it should take place over the bank holiday, and many expressed their concerns about the issues they had with replacement services when previous works have taken place.

“After hearing their feedback and trying to accommodate to passenger needs, we decided this was the best time.

“ “We’d like to apologise for the disruption and appreciate everyone working with us, we know it’s inconvenient. We believe that this short-term disruption will be beneficial in the long term.

“It will mean having more trains in service, faster trains because of the reduced speed restrictions, and once completed it’ll remove the need for maintenance for a period of time after.”

What will be laid on to help?

Greater Anglia has recruited 75 extra staff to help run the rail replacement service, ensuring customers get on the correct bus.

Managers from across the business will also help out from 6am to 9pm, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Wickford, Rayleigh, Hockley and Rochford, where it’s believed will be the busiest stations affected by the works on those days.

More than 300 buses for the replacement services have also been booked.

What's the alternative?

RAIL travellers have a number of alternative travel options to combat the loss of service.

Rail replacement buses are to be used and a reduced train service between Wickford and London Liverpool Street will be in place.

Trains between these destinations will be shorter and will run less frequently because access to the Southend depot, where trains are parked and cleaned overnight, will be suspended by the works and there is no alternative location available.

The route between Wickford and Southminster will remain open.

Greater Anglia customers who hold a monthly season ticket or longer, are able to use c2c services for the entire nine days of the closure, changing for connections at London Fenchurch Street or Limehouse. However, it is warned that the c2c will be busy as a result.

Revised rail and bus timetables for the nine-day closure are on the Greater Anglia website.

Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “We recognise there is never an ideal time to shut the railway and appreciate the inconvenience of the works, but closing the line for nine days will allow us to carry out much more work compared to a series of more limited mid-week or weekend closures.

"I’d encourage passengers to plan their journey in advance.”