Main line rail services run from London Waterloo, Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton and Brockenhurst to Bournemouth, Poole, Wareham, Dorchster and Weymouth operated by South West Trains. There are also longer distance services, operated by Cross Country Trains from the Midlands, North and Scotland to Bournemouth. Principal stations on this line that are close to or have bus links to the coast path are Bournemouth, Poole, Wareham, Wool, Dorchester South and Weymouth (see below for details). Services from London via Southampton to Bournemouth, Poole, Wareham, Dorchester and Weymouth run twice per hour Monday - Saturday and hourly on Sundays. Services to Wool are hourly seven days a week. Cross Country Services from Scotland, the North and Midlands to Bournemouth typically run hourly seven days a week.
The Heart of Wessex Line runs from Bristol to Weymouth, via Bath, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, Castle Cary, Yeovil and Dorchester. Services on this line are operated by First Great Western and run several times a day although the service is less frequent on Sundays.
The West of England line, operated by South West Trains, has a station at Axminster, which has good bus connections to Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Bridport and Weymouth. Trains from Exeter, Honiton, Yeovil, Gillingham, Salisbury, Andover, Basingstoke, Woking and London Waterloo stop at Axminster, as well as some of the smaller stations on the route. Bus services are normally timed so that they connect with most of the trains at Axminster. There are normally trains between once every hour and once every two hours to Axminster, seven days a week.
The following table lists the principal rail stations that are either on or close to the coast path or have bus services to points on the coast path.
|Station||Coast Path access||Walk(s)||Line||Rail Operator(s)|
|Bournemouth||Regular bus services from outside the station to South Haven Point (the start of the coast path), Studland and Swanage||Sandbanks to Swanage, Swanage to Chapmans Pool||London Waterloo - Weymouth Line, Birmingham to Bournemouth line||South West Trains, Cross Country Trains|
|Poole||Bus services from bus station a short walk from the railway station to Sandbanks Ferry (for ferry to South Haven Point), Swanage and Kingston (for access to Chapmans Pool). Also X53 Jurassic Coast link service every two hours between Poole and Exeter, providing access to the Dorset coast at Osmington, Weymouth, Abbotsbury, Burton Bradstock, West Bay, Charmouth and Lyme Regis. When leaving the railway station follow the signs for the bus station - the quickest route is via the Dolphin Shopping Centre.||Sandbanks to Swanage, Swanage to Chapmans Pool, Lulworth to Chapmans Pool, Lulworth to Weymouth, Portland to Weymouth (via East side), Portland to Weymouth (via West side), Abbotsbury to Weymouth, Abbotsbury to West Bay, Lyme Regis to West Bay, Beer to Lyme Regis.||London Waterloo - Weymouth Line||South West Trains|
|Wareham||Bus services from outside the station to Swanage, Kingston (for access to Chapmans Pool). Jurassic Coast Link X53 passes the station providing access to the Dorset coast at Osmington, Weymouth, Abbotsbury, Burton Bradstock, West Bay, Charmouth and Lyme Regis.||Swanage to Chapmans Pool, Lulworth to Chapmans Pool, Lulworth to Weymouth, Portland to Weymouth (via East side), Portland to Weymouth (via West side), Abbotsbury to Weymouth, Abbotsbury to West Bay, Lyme Regis to West Bay, Beer to Lyme Regis.||London Waterloo - Weymouth line||South West Trains|
|Wool||Infrequent buses to Lulworth Cove (most of which require you to book in advance).||Lulworth to Chapmans Pool, Lulworth to Weymouth||London Waterloo - Weymouth line||South West Trains|
|Dorchester South||Bus service 31 runs between Dorchester South station, Charmouth and Lyme Regis. The bus also calls at Bridport, a short walk from West Bay.||Lyme Regis to West Bay, Beer to Lyme Regis||London Waterloo - Weymouth line||South West Trains|
|Weymouth||A short walk from the coast path. There are frequent buses to Portland and Portland Bill. The Jurassic Coast Link X53 bus runs once every two hours to Exeter in the west and Poole in the east providing access to the coast path at Osmington, Weymouth, Abbotsbury, Burton Bradstock, West Bay, Charmouth and Lyme Regis.||Lulworth to Weymouth, Portland to Weymouth (via East side), Portland to Weymouth (via West side), Abbotsbury to Weymouth, Abbotsbury to West Bay, Lyme Regis to West Bay, Beer to Lyme Regis.||London Waterloo to Weymouth line, The Heart of Wessex Line (Bristol to Weymouth).||South West Trains (Waterloo to Weymouth), First Great Western (Bristol to Weymouth)|
|Axminster||Bus 31 to Charmouth, Lyme Regis and Weymouthfrom outside the station, 7 days a week.||Lulworth to Weymouth, Portland to Weymouth (via East side), Portland to Weymouth (via West side), Abbotsbury to Weymouth, Lyme Regis to West Bay, Beer to Lyme Regis.||West of England Line (London Waterloo - Salisbury - Yeovil Junction - Exeter)||South West Trains|
Three companies provides National Rail services in Dorset. South West Trains, Cross Country and First Great Western.
In additiona, the Swanage Railway are a privatly owned steam railway running bwtween Nordon, Corfe Castle and Swanage. There are connections with buses at Nordon and Swanage to Wareham station for connections to the National Rail network. Trains run for most of spring, summer and autumn and up to every 35 minutes at peak time. The line was recently connected to the main-line at Wareham and it is hoped to be able to run trains through to Wareham in the future.
Pre-Printed timetable booklets are available from all staffed stations in and around Dorset. Most larger stations are staffed. In addition some of the rail operators have provided timetables for downloading on their web sites. See the links below
On-Line Timetables and Ticket Sales
There are several web sites which allow you to search for rail information, some also provide information on fares. If you are booking train tickets in advance, it is advised to book your ticket on the website of the relevant train operator as this will typically offer you the lowest fares, on-line booking of tickets and free delivery. The sites below provide timetable information and some information on fares accross the rail network.
The National Rail site has lots of information on the rail network, including a journey planner that gives the train times and fares, real time travel information and real time departure information for many stations. It also provides details of facilities for car and bicycle parking at railway stations.
The TrainLine.com provides timetable, train fare information and it allows you to book a ticket in advance (which can be picked up at some stations or delivered to your house). It does require you to register first and charges comission on rail tickets.
Duetsche Bahn (the German rail operator) provides (in English) an on-line timetable for all UK rail services. It also offers a list of calling points for all the trains (rather than just where you need to change), a map of the route takes and will produce a personalised PDF (Adobe Acrobat file) of the timetable between any two stations.
Rail Services in the UK sometimes have delays and disruption, so it is useful to check for potential problems before setting out. National Rail Enquiries is a telephone line (open 24-hours a day) which can provide timetable and current train running information. The number is 08457 48 49 50. Calls are charged at the local rate.
There is also a SMS text service to check current train running. To use this service, text the name of the station you wish to travel from to 84950 and you will recieve a message back in response listing the times of the next few departures from that station and whether the trains are delayed. You will be charged for using this service in addition to any charge your mobile provider may levy for sending text messages.
There is also on-line train running information available updated frequently. The main site lists problems and disruption (current and cleared), for the whole UK. In addition current live arrival and departure information is available for most stations in the UK. For South Dorset, the relevant stations are listed below.
If you're travelling regularly by train, it might be worth investing in a Railcard, which offers discounts on most rail services. The following lists details of all the railcards that are available, their cost and validity. For further details and to apply, see the Railcards website.
Bus services operate between many points on the South West coast path and also connect with major towns and cities and the National Rail network. Most of the Dorset coast is easily accessibly by bus with the exception of the path between Swanage and Weymouth where there are only infrequent buses to Lulworth Cove (on the coast path) or to Kingston, a couple of miles inland from the coast path.
The following table shows the bus routes that pass points on the coast path and the walks they are useful for. Points on (or near) the coast path are marked in bold. Note that all known buses to points on the coast path are listed below with the exception of buses that run less than daily services and services to Weymouth that don't serve other points along the coast path, as there are too many services to list them all here.
Bus timetable information is available from the Traveline South West site, operators concerned, or from Traveline telephone information on 0870 608 2 608. Dorset County Council also now provide the full Dorset timetables on their site. To download these Click Here.
Sandbanks - Shell Bay Ferry
The Sandbanks to Shell Bay (North Haven Point - South Haven Point) Ferry is a chain ferry which runs between the entrances to Poole Harbour. It runs every 20 minutes or so every day of the year from 7:00am to 11:00pm, except for when the boat is having a refit. The Ferry carries cars and passangers. Passangers should pay ot the kiosk on the Sandbanks side (there is no charge for travelling in the other direction). For drivers, there is a toll booth on the Shell Bay side.
Rover Tickets provide a way to travel on bus and train services for several days at a time, without having to purchase seperate tickets. If your in the area for a few days it is worth looking into.
Bus Only Rover Tickets
Most bus companies offer explorer tickets, however within Dorset these tickets are generally only available on buses operated by the same company, so you can't use an explorer ticket issues by Wilts and Dorset on a First service. These tickets provide best value when you need to change buses.
Rail Only Rover Tickets
Two tickets relevant to the Dorset coast are available.
Freedom of the South West Rover
The Freedom of the South West rail rover provides unlimited use of all National Rail services in Cornwall and Devon (if you travel after 9:00 Monday - Friday), and onto many parts of Avon, Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset. It is available for use on any 3 days in a 7 day period for £70 or any 8 out of 15 days for £95.
Severn, Avon and Wessex Rover
The Severn, Avon and Wessex rail rover provides unlimied use of rail services after 9:00 in the area around the Severn, Avon and Wessex. It is valid on the Heart of Wessex Line from Bristol to Weymouth, the line between Salisbury and Axminster and between Southampton and Weymouth. It costs £40 for any 3 in 7 days and £60 for any 8 in 15 days.