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Major engineering work in November and December to provide better journeys for rail passengers in Weymouth, Dorchester and Yeovil – but watch out for line closures

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Passengers in Weymouth, Dorchester and Yeovil will soon benefit from big improvements to their railway as engineers get to work on improving track and stations.

Between Thursday 18 November and Friday 3 December there will be major surgery for the ‘Heart of Wessex’ line, which connects Weymouth and Bristol. Almost five miles of track will be replaced in the Maiden Newton, Chetnole and Yetminster areas, during a 16-day closure. Buses will replace Great Western Railway (GWR) services throughout.

New track was due to be installed in the Chetnole area over the late May Bank Holiday. With large numbers of passengers expected due to hot weather and the end of lockdown restrictions, work was postponed, allowing passengers to travel by train instead of bus replacement services.

The line from Weymouth to Wool will also close on Monday 22 November, then the line from Weymouth to Dorchester South will close from Tuesday 23 to Friday 26 November. Buses will replace South Western Railway (SWR) services.

New track being laid over.

Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, said: “We’re making major improvements to the railway between Weymouth, Yeovil Pen Mill and Wool to provide our passengers with more reliable train services and better journeys.

“Sixteen days is a long time to close the railway, but it is the best way to ensure all of our work between Weymouth and Yeovil Pen Mill is completed while causing the least amount of disruption possible. Within those sixteen days we’re also closing the line from Weymouth to Dorchester South, for five days, when we’ll be carrying out important work to keep trains on time and reduce delays.

“We recommend that our passengers plan well ahead, as some replacement bus journeys may take significantly longer.”

James Wilcox, GWR station manager for Westbury, Wiltshire and Dorset, said: “This temporary period of disruption is for essential rail improvement work to maintain our train services between Weymouth and Bristol Temple Meads.

“For GWR, it will protect the use of the route between Somerset and Dorset for the future and safeguard the line for customers travelling by rail in the region.

“We are grateful that Network Rail agreed to move the planned engineering work in Chetnole from earlier in the year to a quieter period, in order to help minimise any disruption to passengers.”

Inside Cowburn Tunnel at track level.

Alan Penlington, SWR’s customer experience director, said: “The work Network Rail are carrying out is good news for our customers as it will improve journeys by increasing reliability and removing speed restrictions that can often cause delays. 

“We recognise these works will be disruptive, so we’d ask anyone who’s traveling to plan ahead to see if their journey is affected. Replacement buses will be in operation meaning journeys will take longer. I’d like to thank customers for their patience and understanding whilst these essential works are carried out.”

To go with better track, there will also be improvements at Weymouth and Upwey stations. Both will be cleaned, repainted and have litter and weeds removed, while platforms will have new paving installed.

During five days of maintenance on the line from Weymouth to Dorchester South and Wool, engineers will work on track, points and drainage to remove a speed restriction and keep trains on time between Weymouth and Upwey.

Engineers will also be working in Bincombe tunnel, between Upwey and Weymouth, while Tillon’s Lane bridge in Cattistock, near Maiden Newton, and Damer’s Road bridge in Dorchester, will undergo repairs.

Passengers should plan ahead with National Rail Enquiries at nationalrail.co.uk

Photo credit: Network Rail

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