RAIL passengers in Oxford are facing a fortnight of major disruption from today as Network Rail carries out vital improvement work.

Nearly all services in and out of the rail station will be suspended and the city council is liaising with Network Rail to try to ensure residents between the city centre and Wolvercote do not have to suffer too much noise.

The works, which include 'renewing track' and upgrading signals, mean there will be no trains running to or from the city between today and Sunday, July 22, and again on the weekend of July 28 and 29, with the exception of a limited direct service to London between July 16 and July 20.

Oxford transport expert Hugh Jaeger said: "It will be difficult for passengers but this improvement work is essential.

"Hopefully this work will finish on time."

Train operator GWR is reminding passengers to check before they travel as Network Rail starts remodelling track to the north of Oxford and through the station itself.

The work will allow trains to run more efficiently through Oxford, reducing congestion and helping speed up journey times.

GWR operations director Rob Mullen said: "This work will improve the resilience of Network Rail’s infrastructure, and also serve to reduce congestion in the Oxford area.

“Vital to our long term plans for Oxford and the North Cotswolds, we are working hard to keep any disruption to a minimum and ensure customers can continue their journeys with as little impact as possible.”

During the first week of the works there will be no direct services from Oxford towards London or from Oxford towards Hanborough – extended to Moreton-In-Marsh at weekends.

Rail services will operate between Didcot Parkway and London Paddington and between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone.

Replacement bus services will run where rail services are not able to, adding up to 30 minutes to journey times.

Network Rail senior programme manager of infrastructure projects Rob Mashford said: "We would like to thank passengers for their patience while we undertake this work as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.

"The track renewal, moving the signalling controls to the state-of-the-art Thames Valley Signal Centre, and improvement work taking place will help to improve the reliability of the railway for passengers in the Oxford area.”

During the second week of the works GWR will operate an hourly service between Oxford and London Paddington (calling at Reading only) and CrossCountry will run hourly services between Oxford and Reading.

Replacement buses will continue to serve stations between the two cities.

A city council spokesman said Network Rail applied for a legal consent from the council's environmental health team because some of the works would be 'noisy and at unsociable times'.

He added: "The council’s role is to check the construction plans and methods looking for noise control good practice, such that we are satisfied a noise consent can be granted.

"This includes how and when the work is to be carried out, how noise and vibration will be monitored and controlled and how those likely to be affected are informed."

Network Rail has written to thousands of rail-side neighbours to tell them about the works and give contact numbers in case of complaint.

The council spokesman added: "During the rail works programme council officers will also be monitoring noise and checking that their consent conditions are being met."