TRAIN bosses have hit back at criticism from passengers over its nine-day closure of one of a busy railway line, saying the operation is going “well”.

There are no trains running on the southern end of the Brighton Main Line (BML) until February 25 so Network Rail can carry out engineering work as part of a £67 million project.

The closure, which began on Saturday, is affecting Three Bridges services between Brighton and Lewes.

Network Rail warned that journeys would be “significantly longer” and trains which do run will be “much busier than usual”.

The BML is normally used by 300,000 people each day and connects the south coast with London on Southern and Thameslink trains.

Services to and from Brighton are being diverted along the coast via Littlehampton, adding an hour to journeys.

A replacement bus and coach service is in operation, with more than 240 vehicles every day.

Passengers complained on social media of confusion over what alternative arrangements would be on offer, with some saying they had been unable to find places to park at stations when trying to avoid the replacement bus.

Others claimed they had been told there were no fast, direct buses from Brighton to Three Bridges and replacement services would stop at all stations along the route but then discovered this service was running.

In Lewes, some passengers also complained there was inadequate signage.

On Twitter, passenger Daniel Gurr branded it a “replacement bus nightmare”, claiming a driver got lost without directions, travelling 20 miles past Three Bridges.

Kaya Stanley-Money said confusion about the arrangements was a “disgrace”, claiming direct buses were operating unexpectedly and then cancelled before being sent away empty.

The Preston Park Train Campaign group said passengers were “dreading” the journey next week.

Derby County supporters were among those disrupted as they travelled to watch their team’s FA Cup fifth round match against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas called on the Government to compensate passengers for the disruption, particularly season ticket holders.

Research by watchdog Transport Focus indicated 76 per cent of passengers planned to take action such as working from home, taking annual leave or avoiding peak travel times.

The closure is timed to coincide with half-term as fewer passengers use the railway during school holidays.

A GTR spokesman said: “Network Rail’s reliability improvement work is progressing well, and our alternative transport arrangements have been going to plan with praise for our teams on the ground from many passengers. We are confident in our plans for tomorrow’s service.

“We have contingency buses to relieve pressure on trains and to keep passengers moving if crowds build up somewhere on the network.”

GTR said buses will stop at all stations but fast, direct services from Brighton to Three Bridges will run if necessary, depending on congestion, passenger numbers and availability.

A spokesman said: “Today we were able to use these to run some non-stop buses between Brighton and Three Bridges to supplement the trains. We will continue to do this if the need arises and staff on the ground will direct passengers.

“We have more than 530 drivers working with over 240 buses in circulation and apologise if one of them took a wrong turn. This happened yesterday when the route was blocked by a traffic accident.”

The spokesman added: “At Lewes, the bus stops are right outside the front of the station. They are well marked and there are plenty of staff on hand to help.”

Network Rail is renewing and upgrading track junctions and signalling, shoring up embankments and installing technology to detect potential problems before they occur and help services recover faster when there is a fault.

Extensive work is being carried out in four Victorian tunnels to stop leaks and drainage issues which cause major delays. Parts of the BML will also be closed during several weekends until May.