Major evening and weekend upgrade work will take place on our region’s railway line next year.

Network Rail has announced a £170million project to improve overhead lines, track and signalling along the Greater Anglia route will start in January.

The majority of the work will take place on Saturday and Sunday nights and weekday evenings, to avoid peak-time disruption.

A ballast cleaner machine will work its way along the line to ensure the track foundations are in a good condition.

The £42million machine will repair the track bed between Colchester and Shenfield from May to October.

Network Rail route managing director Richard Schofield said: “This essential upgrade is the railway’s equivalent of resurfacing a busy road.

“Running a safe, reliable railway depends on the track being in good condition – not just the metal rails, but the foundations on which they sit too.

“We’re using one of the most modern pieces of kit on the railway, meaning the majority of our work can be done while trains are running on the adjacent track.”

Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles said: “ In scheduling the work overnight and at off-peak times to avoid the main periods of commuter travel, we will be doing everything possible to minimise alterations to the normal train service.

“The outcome of this programme and the other infrastructure investment that Network Rail is implementing next year will give us a better, more reliable railway.”

The second phase of track upgrade work at Colchester station is also due to take place next year.

In May, overrunning weekend engineering work during the first phase of work saw Monday morning rush-hour services cancelled.

Track and overhead line work is also scheduled in the Witham and Chelmsford areas.

Work on these projects will take place on eight weekends in February and March, as well as the Easter and May bank holidays.

There are currently no plans for disruptive engineering work on the Great Eastern Mainline between May and the end of 2015.