Plans to cut direct trains to London from Dorchester to one an hour have been slammed by two Dorset councils.
Currently, weekday train services on the Weymouth to Waterloo line provide a twice-hourly direct service to London Waterloo.
New rail franchise holder South Western Railway is proposing to cut the service to one per hour, but cutting the journey time by 12 minutes to two-and-a-half hours.
Bulleid Pacific no. 34067 Tangmere approaches Dorchester South on
a steam special, showing the single-line working east of Dorchester
Photo: Mike Morant https://mikemorant.smugmug.com
Now West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council have sent responses objecting to most of the proposed timetable changes.
They are also calling for the single-line section of track near Dorchester to be re-doubled to avoid the frequent delays when trains from London are running late, and improve the intervals between trains heading for Waterloo.
The councils’ key concerns are:
Reduction in services
While improved journey times are supported by both councils, this improvement is not enough to compensate for the reduction in services. The suggested changes are both adverse and severe.
Trains from London can be significantly overcrowded. Replacing three trains that run from London to Bournemouth with two direct trains and reducing the number of services to the area can only result in increased overcrowding, especially at peak times.
Impact on tourism
There is potential for a significant impact on tourist visitors to the south Dorset area. The current service of two direct trains per hour enables users to travel from London and Southampton Airport to Dorchester and Weymouth. This is a significant route into the area for visitors.
Similarly, for residents of the area, direct trains to London and Southampton Airport are important. A reduction in direct services and the need to change trains at Southampton makes the journey significantly less convenient, especially for those with heavy luggage or a physical disability.
Of particular concern is the impact of a reduced service from Upwey and Moreton. Roughly 600 new homes are planned for Crossways, which is served by Moreton Station, and around 900 extra homes will be built near Upwey Station.
Further residential expansion at these two locations is also being considered as part of the review of the West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland joint Local Plan. It is therefore short-sighted to remove direct London services given the increase in population in the area.
The service connecting Weymouth to Portsmouth is welcomed as it offers greater connectivity, potentially opening up new employment opportunities. However, the Southampton to Portsmouth area is already well served by frequent trains.
There should be a commitment to dualling the line to Dorchester and upgrading the power supply to increase the frequency and speed of services.
Cllr Ian Gardner, West Dorset District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning, said: “Losing one of the direct trains to London is unacceptable. We expect South Western Railway to consider our response and provide more suitable proposals.”
A South Western Railway spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing the feedback received from the timetable consultation and will continue to discuss any revisions to the proposals with the Department for Transport (DfT) in the coming weeks.”