Weekday engineering work taking place between Bournemouth and Southampton Central - 1st-5th November 2021

PTR 444

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There isn’t a dedicated thread on this subject yet so I may as well create one for the benefit of commuters who rely on the SWML to get to school, college, work and university. The line between Bournemouth and Southampton Central will close for engineering work from Monday 1st November until Friday 5th November, in a “first for work taking place on weekdays to reflect post-Covid travel habits”*. A more detailed summary of what’s going on can be found on the National Rail website.
Engineering work is taking place between Southampton Central and Bournemouth, closing all lines.
CrossCountry:
Buses will replace trains between Southampton Airport Parkway and Bournemouth.
South Western Railway:
Fast buses will run between Southampton Airport Parkway and Bournemouth.
Fast buses will run between Southampton Central and Bournemouth.
Buses will run between Brockenhurst and Bournemouth calling at all stations.
A revised service will run between Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth.
Check before you travel:
You can plan your journey using the National Rail Enquiries Journey Planner
Although journey planners are showing correctly, your journey may be subject to alteration at short notice due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Please check before your journey.
Replacement Bus Travel Advice:
For helpful advice if you need to travel on a rail replacement service, including accessibility and bicycle information, please use this page.
You can find the location of your bus replacement by checking station signs or by searching for your station on our station information pages.

While I can understand the rationale for doing engineering work during the week if it’s quieter than weekends with the post-covid commuter decline and leisure boom, this is probably one of the worst lines to trial it on. Bournemouth - Southampton is a massive commuter flow with many passengers boarding at intermediate stations and some travelling onwards to London. Brockenhurst generates a huge amount of student traffic with the college and having seen the down platform jam-packed at kick-out time, it’s going to be a mammoth challenge getting them onto buses and coaches with about 1/6 capacity of a 5-car 444. Besides, the line isn’t likely to be any busier at the weekend now the summer season is over so why not do it then?

As somebody who will need to travel this route at least twice that week, please feel free to share any updates or concerns regarding the blockade on this thread.

*I think that was a quote from Paul Clifton on a BBC South Today report from a few weeks ago.
 
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There are other blockades going on like that, the line between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings is shut 23rd and 30th October.

They are going to become much more common in the future as it allows all the work to done in one slot than other multiple weekend and I think its also more cost effective.
 

PTR 444

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While I can understand that doing engineering work this way is a much better use of time, people travelling during the week are more likely to be time sensitive than those doing so during the weekend. Unless the rail replacement bus is as fast as the train, there are going to be a LOT of people inconvenienced by this.
 

Kite159

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There are other blockades going on like that, the line between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings is shut 23rd and 30th October.

They are going to become much more common in the future as it allows all the work to done in one slot than other multiple weekend and I think its also more cost effective.

And makes more sense if it's a big job which will take multiple days to complete, assuming the communication is put out into what work they are carrying out.
 

The Planner

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While I can understand that doing engineering work this way is a much better use of time, people travelling during the week are more likely to be time sensitive than those doing so during the weekend. Unless the rail replacement bus is as fast as the train, there are going to be a LOT of people inconvenienced by this.
Someone is always inconvenienced by engineering works, however SWR and XC must have been ok with it to agree to it. They also kept it out of half term too so the leisure market clearly trumped the commuter. 5 solid days is probably replacing at least 3 weekends or 7 or more Sundays.
 

pompeyfan

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Brockenhurst college have actually agreed to home learning that week where possible to reduce commuter flow. The usual New Milton / Christchurch / Pokesdown hops will be a pain but from experience there is a huge amount of fare evasion or pay when challenged on that section of route.
 

DerekC

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Someone is always inconvenienced by engineering works, however SWR and XC must have been ok with it to agree to it. They also kept it out of half term too so the leisure market clearly trumped the commuter. 5 solid days is probably replacing at least 3 weekends or 7 or more Sundays.
In the GBR world with DfT micromanaging, do SWR and XC get a say? Compensation payments don't mean anything now - it's just from one Treasury pocket into another, so I imagine TOCs have to do as they are told.
 
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Network Rail's press release:

https://www.networkrailmediacentre....for-5-days-for-major-improvements-in-november

Railway between Southampton and Bournemouth to close for 5 days for major improvements in November​

Region & Route: Southern: Wessex | Southern
The railway between Southampton and Bournemouth will close for five days from Monday 1 to Friday 5 November to deliver a range of long-term improvements making journeys more reliable and resilient to extreme weather.
Engineers will upgrade the track, signals and drainage between Totton and Bournemouth, removing speed restrictions and making South Western Railway and Cross Country journeys through the area faster.
Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “This critical improvement work will improve journeys, making them more resilient and allowing us to remove speed restrictions.
“To support the country building back from the pandemic and as a reflection of a rise in leisure and tourism travellers to the South Coast, this critical work will be completed over five weekdays rather than closing the railway for a number of weekends.
"Changing travel patterns mean our railway is busier at weekends than midweek and it’s important for us to minimise the number of people affected by the work being carried out. We never take the decision to close a busy stretch of railway lightly and have reviewed our approach carefully to confirm it is the best option.
“We are working with operators SWR and Cross Country to plan alternative travel arrangements and I would encourage anyone travelling that week to check before they make their plans.”
Alan Penlington, SWR’s customer experience director, said: “The work Network Rail are carrying out from the 1 November will mean big improvements for our customers. Not just a more reliable and resilient service, but also visible improvements.
“I realise these works will mean significant disruption for our customers and I’d like to remind 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.”
Over the five days, engineers will work at several locations carrying out:
  • Track level improvements at Brockenhurst, Sway and Hinton Admiral
  • Drainage improvements in the Sway area to help reduce delays and cancellations during extreme weather
  • Bridge maintenance in the Christchurch area to ensure structures can support track and trains for years to come
  • Track and signalling maintenance at Totton, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst and Christchurch
  • Installation of new rails between Hinton Admiral and Christchurch and new ballast and sleepers at Sway to improve reliability.
Notes to editors
Travel information
Monday 1 November
  • Buses will replace South Western Railway (SWR) services between Southampton Central and Bournemouth and between Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier
  • CrossCountry services between Bournemouth and Manchester Piccadilly will terminate at Southampton Central, with buses replacing trains from both Southampton Airport Parkway and Southampton Central to Bournemouth
  • Please note, buses will not call at Beaulieu Road
Tuesday 2 – Friday 5 November
  • SWR services between London Waterloo and Weymouth will terminate at Brockenhurst with buses providing onward travel to Bournemouth
  • SWR services between London Waterloo and Poole will terminate at Southampton Central with buses providing onward travel to Brockenhurst and Bournemouth
  • CrossCountry services between Bournemouth and Manchester Piccadilly will terminate at Southampton Central, with buses replacing trains from both Southampton Airport Parkway and Southampton Central to Bournemouth
 

The Planner

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In the GBR world with DfT micromanaging, do SWR and XC get a say? Compensation payments don't mean anything now - it's just from one Treasury pocket into another, so I imagine TOCs have to do as they are told.
Until the Network Code and track access contracts completely change, all TOCs and FOCs can veto possession requests as normal. I doubt that will ever change either apart from the compensation element.
 

Fyldeboy

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Maybe in a situation like this, share the pain? Would 5 days Saturday to Wednesday not be viable?

One weekend out for leisure travellers is better than the long-term disruption of multiple blockades and 3 days for commuters recognises the change of flows but minimises the inconvenience.
 

30907

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Maybe in a situation like this, share the pain? Would 5 days Saturday to Wednesday not be viable?
Depends whether the engineering resources can be organised on that basis.
It also creates planning problems - 3 sets of timetable and roster alterations instead of 1 - which shouldn't be decisive but are a factor.

BTW on another forum a Stakeholder Update was posted a month ago.
 

steamybrian

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In my opinion it is a good time to plan the work particularly with less passengers travelling than pre- covid.
It is cheaper to do the work in a 5 day blockade than over several weekends.
I agree with others there have been several midweek blockades on other lines recently.
 

PTR 444

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3 days to go, and BBC South Today have just reported that bus drivers to cover this route are in short supply due to the nationwide shortage, so expect fewer RRBs than usual. Going to be a fun week for those who can’t get accommodation near their workplace.
 

Nicholas Lewis

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In my opinion it is a good time to plan the work particularly with less passengers travelling than pre- covid.
It is cheaper to do the work in a 5 day blockade than over several weekends.
I agree with others there have been several midweek blockades on other lines recently.
Agree with all that but NR never reduce the number of abnormals in the following years so lets see what happens here
 

Domeyhead

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I have known this stretch of line for over 50 years (and was a pupil at Brockenhurst when BR ran dedicated school trains). I remember engineering work back then as involving single line working with pilot men, and a set of crossover points were maintained at most stations (certainly at Brockenhurst, New Milton and Christchurch) so that one line could be taken out of action section by section. The railway today is entering a new age when leisure traffic is set to become as important as commuter traffic so we should not be sacrificing weekends with rail replacement services at the drop of a hat. Somehow we have to manage an impossible problem. There is no solution that maximises both high cost, high productivity posessions and passenger comfort, only compromises, but one compromise might be to look at a return to shorter possession sections, reinstatement of crossovers and single line working. Taking posession of the entire line between Southampton and Bournemouth is an almost criminal indictment of the short term cutbacks on crossings and loops that in past years would have seen shorter manageable 5 - 10 mile sections able to offer a limited service, not the 30 mile posession we see today. Health and Safety has changed but if all it takes is the design of a temporary barrier between the running line and a the line under repair this is not an impossible problem.
 

6Gman

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I have known this stretch of line for over 50 years (and was a pupil at Brockenhurst when BR ran dedicated school trains). I remember engineering work back then as involving single line working with pilot men, and a set of crossover points were maintained at most stations (certainly at Brockenhurst, New Milton and Christchurch) so that one line could be taken out of action section by section. The railway today is entering a new age when leisure traffic is set to become as important as commuter traffic so we should not be sacrificing weekends with rail replacement services at the drop of a hat. Somehow we have to manage an impossible problem. There is no solution that maximises both high cost, high productivity posessions and passenger comfort, only compromises, but one compromise might be to look at a return to shorter possession sections, reinstatement of crossovers and single line working. Taking posession of the entire line between Southampton and Bournemouth is an almost criminal indictment of the short term cutbacks on crossings and loops that in past years would have seen shorter manageable 5 - 10 mile sections able to offer a limited service, not the 30 mile posession we see today. Health and Safety has changed but if all it takes is the design of a temporary barrier between the running line and a the line under repair this is not an impossible problem.
It may not be "impossible" but I think it's very unlikely to be practical.

The culture regarding safety has changed massively (and, in my opinion, correctly).
 

The Planner

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Most crossovers were taken out for lack of use and the maintenance liability. Single line working still leaves you with less than 6 foot to play with as a margin, it doesn't wash anymore.
 

30907

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I have known this stretch of line for over 50 years (and was a pupil at Brockenhurst when BR ran dedicated school trains). I remember engineering work back then as involving single line working with pilot men, and a set of crossover points were maintained at most stations (certainly at Brockenhurst, New Milton and Christchurch) so that one line could be taken out of action section by section. The railway today is entering a new age when leisure traffic is set to become as important as commuter traffic so we should not be sacrificing weekends with rail replacement services at the drop of a hat. Somehow we have to manage an impossible problem. There is no solution that maximises both high cost, high productivity posessions and passenger comfort, only compromises, but one compromise might be to look at a return to shorter possession sections, reinstatement of crossovers and single line working. Taking posession of the entire line between Southampton and Bournemouth is an almost criminal indictment of the short term cutbacks on crossings and loops that in past years would have seen shorter manageable 5 - 10 mile sections able to offer a limited service, not the 30 mile posession we see today. Health and Safety has changed but if all it takes is the design of a temporary barrier between the running line and a the line under repair this is not an impossible problem.
I agree that weekday work makes sense, especially at quieter times of the year.
AIUI though work is going on at several locations over the whole Redbridge- Bournemouth section.
 

Domeyhead

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Most crossovers were taken out for lack of use and the maintenance liability. Single line working still leaves you with less than 6 foot to play with as a margin, it doesn't wash anymore.
It is not difficult to construct a temporary or even a moving safety barrier. it is not difficult to define a problem so that it can be analysed and resolved - to simply state that a problem is unresolvable without considering it is avoiding the issue. Engineers have resolved far more complex issues than this on the railway as a matter of course. Six foot as a margin is not an issue if a safety temporary barrier is of a sufficient standard to protect a workforce from tripping or falling into danger and equally to protect a train from an object protruding into its gauge. That is no more than an engineering problem requiring an engineered solution - otherwise how could we have all passengers stood on unstaffed station platforms all over the country with no barrier at all between themselves and passing 125mph express trains? How could we have 25Kv overhead catenary under road bridges? Wrong line running or single line running at even 50mph would at least provide a semblance of a service as it did in the past, and we have even had the chairman of Network Rail say in the last 5 years that the railway needs to end the culture of rail replacement bus services. The railways exists to move people, not to provide engineering work at weekends for Network Rail subcontractors. The challenge here is to seek the best compromise solution to an obvious problem.
 

alf

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Absolutely agree with Domeyhead at post 21.

The “can’t be done now” view expressed in post 18 would be laughed at by the great railway engineers & people like Fiennes, Chris Green & chairman Bob Reid mark 1.
 

Wychwood93

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Absolutely agree with Domeyhead at post 21.

The “can’t be done now” view expressed in post 18 would be laughed at by the great railway engineers & people like Fiennes, Chris Green & chairman Bob Reid mark 1.
The “can’t be done now” view due to 'this and that' is what really annoys other non-railway folk - as retired staff I often get questions from friends which, quite often, are very hard to explain and quite often I cannot explain.
 

Nicholas Lewis

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I have known this stretch of line for over 50 years (and was a pupil at Brockenhurst when BR ran dedicated school trains). I remember engineering work back then as involving single line working with pilot men, and a set of crossover points were maintained at most stations (certainly at Brockenhurst, New Milton and Christchurch) so that one line could be taken out of action section by section. The railway today is entering a new age when leisure traffic is set to become as important as commuter traffic so we should not be sacrificing weekends with rail replacement services at the drop of a hat. Somehow we have to manage an impossible problem. There is no solution that maximises both high cost, high productivity posessions and passenger comfort, only compromises, but one compromise might be to look at a return to shorter possession sections, reinstatement of crossovers and single line working. Taking posession of the entire line between Southampton and Bournemouth is an almost criminal indictment of the short term cutbacks on crossings and loops that in past years would have seen shorter manageable 5 - 10 mile sections able to offer a limited service, not the 30 mile posession we see today. Health and Safety has changed but if all it takes is the design of a temporary barrier between the running line and a the line under repair this is not an impossible problem.
I used to offer TOCs part of lines back once we had works nailed down but most common response was that station was not suitable for buses or the local road network isn't suitable for big buses so thanks but we will stick with the 30 mile bus ride. This was in era where passengers were an inconvenience at weekends and im not sure TOCs wanted to make it too easy for passengers so disincentivise them from travelling by coming up with "your journey will be extended b 60 or 90mins"
It is not difficult to construct a temporary or even a moving safety barrier. it is not difficult to define a problem so that it can be analysed and resolved - to simply state that a problem is unresolvable without considering it is avoiding the issue. Engineers have resolved far more complex issues than this on the railway as a matter of course. Six foot as a margin is not an issue if a safety temporary barrier is of a sufficient standard to protect a workforce from tripping or falling into danger and equally to protect a train from an object protruding into its gauge. That is no more than an engineering problem requiring an engineered solution - otherwise how could we have all passengers stood on unstaffed station platforms all over the country with no barrier at all between themselves and passing 125mph express trains? How could we have 25Kv overhead catenary under road bridges? Wrong line running or single line running at even 50mph would at least provide a semblance of a service as it did in the past, and we have even had the chairman of Network Rail say in the last 5 years that the railway needs to end the culture of rail replacement bus services. The railways exists to move people, not to provide engineering work at weekends for Network Rail subcontractors. The challenge here is to seek the best compromise solution to an obvious problem.
Yes this is all possible but with todays elf&safety requirements you can't do much with SLW especially anything that involves RRVs Whats more TOCs were largely not interested as it just adds loads of time into the schedule and imports unreliability into the service remember no schedule 8 billed on late rail replacement buses so why take the risk is their mantra. Im against it but this is the state of the nation now after best part of 30 years and its not going to be easily changed. In my view this sort closure is the way forward BUT it must come with a commitment by NR to reduce the abnormals for at least the following two years but doubt it will until there is massive change of approach on how maintenance is delivered away from cyclic 27and 52hr possessions. This will only be possible if route sections are bought upto a standard such that all that needs doing can be accommodated in mid week nights or the odd extended Sunday morning possession.
.
 

The_Van

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I was planning on going to Weymouth on Saturday 4/12. Looks like the line is closed at Brockenhurst then as well
 

Falcon1200

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Wrong line running or single line running at even 50mph would at least provide a semblance of a service as it did in the past

Which somewhat assumes that every one of the multiple worksites (at least 11, involving various different levels of work, as per Post #10) only affects one line, and that trains can run on the other line; I very much doubt that is the case. Of course there will be serious inconvenience to passengers during the blockade, but this will greatly reduce overall the number of occasions the line as to be closed otherwise, months of Sunday possessions for example. And only one chance of a possession overrun !
 

30907

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For passengers from London to Bournemouth, the non stop bus from Parkway takes 50min, which about the same as from Brockenhurst (aa well known route planner give the times by car from Parkway and Brockenhurst as 36min and Central as 39min.)

BTW Redbridge-Brockenhurst-Lymington is only closed on the Monday, and 2tph are running from Tuesday (over double track).
 

The Planner

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It is not difficult to construct a temporary or even a moving safety barrier. it is not difficult to define a problem so that it can be analysed and resolved - to simply state that a problem is unresolvable without considering it is avoiding the issue. Engineers have resolved far more complex issues than this on the railway as a matter of course. Six foot as a margin is not an issue if a safety temporary barrier is of a sufficient standard to protect a workforce from tripping or falling into danger and equally to protect a train from an object protruding into its gauge. That is no more than an engineering problem requiring an engineered solution - otherwise how could we have all passengers stood on unstaffed station platforms all over the country with no barrier at all between themselves and passing 125mph express trains? How could we have 25Kv overhead catenary under road bridges? Wrong line running or single line running at even 50mph would at least provide a semblance of a service as it did in the past, and we have even had the chairman of Network Rail say in the last 5 years that the railway needs to end the culture of rail replacement bus services. The railways exists to move people, not to provide engineering work at weekends for Network Rail subcontractors. The challenge here is to seek the best compromise solution to an obvious problem.
It is more nuanced than that and others before me have given good answers. RRBs are never going to go away, as Andrew Haines may have proclaimed (and I doubt he said they would be eradicated either, his predecessor said digital signaling would solve Castlefield remember..). You have to look at what service you could provide and what issues that would import. None of this work is done in isolation, all the TOCs are involved.

Lets say you have a crossover at Hinton Admiral (I know there isn't). Brockenhurst to there as a single line section, 50mph wrong road and 20mph past worksites. That is a 9 mile section about 8 minutes running time right road. Wrong road 10 minutes before you consider any worksites, call it 13 to factor in any of those. 21 minutes of your hour is now gone. Have we spent loads of cash on bi-di or signalled moves? you are going to need a 2 minute single line re-occupation, maybe even 3. So we are now up to 24 minutes. Are we stopping at New Milton and Sway or are they RRB? You are now at 2tph at best in each direction non-stop as the timetable is unlikely to fall correctly. How many trains does the route have in an off peak hour, it appears to be 4tph in each direction? Who gets those reduced slots? is it SWR with all of them or XC and SWR with once each? XC can't strengthen so you could now have overcrowding issues. SWR could run 10 cars as they are now, will that cause overcrowding? etc
 

Taunton

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5 solid days is probably replacing at least 3 weekends or 7 or more Sundays.
Not necessarily. I find that all-week blockades tend to be worked just one single daytime shift, not 24x7 as you get at weekends. Engineering convenience trumping customer usage.
 

The Planner

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Not necessarily. I find that all-week blockades tend to be worked just one single daytime shift, not 24x7 as you get at weekends. Engineering convenience trumping customer usage.
Got any examples as I find that very hard to believe.
 

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