Network Rail is to carry out upgrades between Castle Cary and Weymouth over a series of weekends this spring to provide passengers with a more reliable railway and faster journeys.
Between January and April, engineers will strengthen tunnels, bridges and refurbish and renew track on the Heart of Wessex line, which links Weymouth and Bristol.
The main area of work is at Yetminster in Dorset where a 129-year-old bridge crossing the River Wriggle will be renewed. This requires the closure of the line for six days between Yeovil Pen Mill and Weymouth from Saturday 15 February to Friday 21 February when buses will replace trains.
Replacement transport will run between Weymouth and Yeovil Pen Mill to connect with Great Western Railway (GWR) train services towards Bristol Temple Meads.
Engineers will work around the clock to replace the deck of Yetminster river bridge, providing a new, a more reliable support for track.
There will also be further closures over four weekends to complete the other upgrades to the line.
With the new bridge deck installed, a long-standing speed restriction will be removed to provide passengers with faster journeys between Somerset and Dorset, whilst reducing maintenance requirements in the future.
Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “There is never a good time to close an important line for the area’s communities, and we are sorry for the inconvenience the closures will cause.
“This significant piece of work to the bridge will be much easier to maintain and together with a reinforced tunnel and new and refurbished track, there will be a much more reliable railway and better journeys for our passengers.”
James Wilcox, GWR’s Station Manager for Castle Cary, said: “This package of works will improve reliability on the route for years to come, and once complete and the speed restriction lifted, this will allow us the opportunity to improve journeys times.
“I would like to offer my thanks in advance to those travelling over the series of weekends and reassure them that we will do everything we can to keep you moving during these important works.”
Passengers are advised to check before they travel if they plan to travel between Yeovil Pen Mill and Dorchester between now and the end of March.
The full list of works is as follows:
- Saturday 25 – Sunday 26 January – the line between Yeovil Pen Mill and Dorchester West will be closed for line refurbishment work at Poundbury tunnel and Bradford Peverell as well as works to prepare for the bridge replacement work.
- Saturday 1 February – Sunday 2 February – On Saturday, the line between Yeovil Pen Mill and Dorchester West will be closed for further works at Poundbury tunnel and Bradford Peverell plus preparatory work at Yetminster. On Sunday, the line between Castle Cary and Dorchester West will be closed for structures work and steelwork repairs at Hummer Road overline bridge near Sherborne, as well as work across the weekend to prepare for the bridge replacement work.
- Saturday 29 February – Sunday 1 March – the line between Yeovil Pen Mill and Dorchester West will be closed whilst follow-up work is carried out at Yetminster river bridge.
- Saturday 28 March – Sunday 29 March – the line between Yeovil Pen Mill and Weymouth will be closed for track renewals at Chetnole and between Dorchester West and Weymouth.