It is understood that Condor Ferries intend to replace at least one of their 86 metre fast ferries, probably Condor Vitesse, with a larger 102 metre ferry, possibly as early as this autumn. The current ferries use No.3 berth in Weymouth which was recently repaired at a cost of £4m by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. Due to the length of the new ship Condor Ferries want to use No.1 berth, which would cost an estimated £10m to refurbish. Neither the Council nor Condor Ferries want to pay the cost, but both parties have much to lose if the ferry service was switched to Poole. The ferry brings in huge income to the local economy and equally Condor prefer Weymouth as it's a shorter crossing than Poole and great savings can me made in fuel costs.
Due to continued reduction in finance for public transport received from the Government (39% over past 4 years to local councils!), Dorset County Council has had to make major cuts to subsidies for bus services in Dorset. This will particularly affect rural routes, where most weekend services will no longer operate. Priority has been given to maintaining an essential service to rural communities on Mondays to Fridays.
The changes come into effect on 6th April 2014 and Dorset County Council has issued a list of the changes HERE.
The following cruise ships are due to dock in Portland Port during 2014 to allow passengers to take day excursions though Dorset, Devon and Wiltshire, especially the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The list is correct as of April 2014, is subject to change and is courtesy of Portland Port.
A large number of steam-hauled charter trains are due to visit Dorset in 2014. The most regular are the Dorset Coast Express on Wednesdays through the summer, and the Weymouth Seaside Express on Sundays.
Most of the steam specials are run by The Railway Touring Company. The Cathedrals Express trains are run by Steam Dreams. The trains from London usually stop in Bournemouth and sometimes Wareham and Dorchester South.
The list below is correct as of April 2014 but some of the special trains may have to be cancelled if bookings are not up to a certain number.
A huge cut in subsidies to bus services in Dorset is proposed by Dorset County Council. The cut of around £850,000 will affect many routes, particularly in rural areas, from January 2014. Evening and weekend services will be withdrawn on many routes. Full details can be seen HERE.
The popular X43 summer holiday bus between Swanage, Lulworth and Weymouth will not run after this year. Other buses to be withdrawn are not used by many passengers but nevertheless are a lifeline to residents in rural villages.
Dorset County Council are asking those affected to make their views known by completing an on-line form available HERE. The last date for submission of those forms is 24 September.
First Hampshire and Dorset are introducing a new livery for the popular X53 Jurassic Coast buses. The first bus in the new colour scheme appeared on view to the public in July 2013. As well as an exterior repaint, the interior has been refurbished too with new leather seats.
The X53 bus route is very popular and is one of the longest (85 miles) and most well-known in Britain. It currently operates between Poole and Exeter with most of the buses based in Weymouth. It is regarded as one of England's most scenic bus journeys and is the only one travelling the length of a World Heritage Site.
The route started in October 1998 using a Rural Bus Subsidy Grant. In those days the operator was the Southern National Bus Company and the buses used were small single deck coaches. There were only about 3 services daily Monday to Saturday, and the route was only between Weymouth and Exeter. Passenger numbers grew strongly, increasing from 29,797 in the first year of operation to 52,972 in 2001/2002. The service also became one of the principal services in the developing World Heritage Site transport strategy.
In 2002 a new project was started called CoastLinX53. The First Group had now taken over the Southern National bus company and were operating the X53 route. A joint application for funding was made by Devon and Dorset County Councils and the First Group to Round 5 of the Government's Rural Bus Challenge. The project called for increased frequency to every two hours, provision of double-deck buses, a Sunday service, and extension from Weymouth to Wareham in the summer, all to start in June 2003.
The bid provided for refurbished second-hand double-deck buses, but the nature of the route required new vehicles and the First Group secured funding for four new double-deck Scania Omnidekkas and a single-deck bus. The new buses were delivered in May 2004, but from June 2003 until 2004 First Group secured four new single-deck buses on loan to operate the service.
After a successful first year it was agreed that the First Group would extend the route to Poole on a commercial basis, with some journeys operating through to Bournemouth. A big marketing campaign was undertaken with branding of the route to include the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site logo. Passenger numbers grew from 56,000 in 2002/3 to 125,000 in 2004/5. Market research showed that these were split approx 50/50 between visitors and residents.
In 2008 new Volvo Eclipse Gemini buses were introduced to the route and the Scania Omnidekkas were moved to the 31 route which overlaps the X53 route in places between Weymouth and Axminster. The Scanias were then repainted in a new livery of blue and cream especially for the service 31.
With the introduction of the English National Bus Pass in 2008 the X53 has become even more popular, with residents and visitors enjoying a “free day out”. This has resulted in overcrowding on some services. In 2010 passenger numbers reached approx half a million.
In 2013 the First Group took over the X53 route commercially and it is now operated without subsidy from Devon and Dorset County Councils.
During the 2013 summer school holidays there are more buses for getting to the Tank Museum from Wool Railway Station. There is also a bus service to Monkey World this summer.
The Friends of Wool Station have produced a timetable showing all the bus connections with trains at Wool Station and it is available here.
This timetable is only valid until 1st September 2013.
After an absence of nearly a year and a half, Condor Ferries resumed their sailings from Weymouth to the Channel Islands on Wednesday 17 July 2013 with the departure of Condor Vitesse at 11.30.
Defects in Weymouth's harbour wall ferry berth were detected in February 2012 forcing Condor Ferries to move all their UK sailings to Poole.
The ferry berth dates back to 1931. It was widened at the time to provide freight facilities for the Great Western Railway, who operated the ferries to the Channel Islands for many years. British Railways took over the service on nationalisation of the railways after the war. Later they became Sealink. Sealink was privatised and continued to sail from Weymouth until 1986. British Channel Island Ferries took over in 1987 but they themselves were taken over by the parent company of Condor Ferries in 1993. In 1993 Condor Ferries started the first high-speed catamaran service for cars and passengers from Weymouth to the Channel Islands with their vessel Condor 10.
Condor Ferries currently operate three identical high-speed catamarans, named Condor Express, Condor Vitesse and Condor Rapide, together with a conventional ferry Commodore Clipper, which sails from Portsmouth. They are looking for new tonnage and a larger high-speed ferry is on their shopping-list.
The recent harbour repairs in Weymouth have cost in excess of £4m and have been carried out by Balfour Beatty.
The ferry service brings in several million pounds per annum into the local economy (shops, hotels, supplies etc) and has been very much missed during its 18 month absence.
Weymouth has always been the traditional departure point in the UK for ferries to the Channel Islands. It is the shortest crossing, and Condor Ferries estimate the move to Poole cost them over £1m in extra fuel.
The timetable for this summer's X43 bus service, between Weymouth, Lulworth Cove and Swanage, has now been published. It is available HERE.
This popular bus runs daily throughout the school summer holidays and is very useful for walkers who want to cover some of the South-West Coast Path. This year it should be even more popular as it will also serve Monkey World and the Tank Museum, as well as Lulworth Cove, Wool station and Durdle Door. It is also the only bus to stop
Running every Sunday from 30 June to 25 August, this summer's steam-hauled Weymouth Seaside Express has been speeded up. The train will now leave Bristol Temple Meads at 08.20, arriving into Weymouth in just over 3 hours at 11.22. The return train will leave Weymouth at 17.00, arriving back at Bristol at 20.15.
The train also calls at Keynsham, Bath Spa, Trowbridge and Westbury. The fare is just £65 per adult return, making it the cheapest steam-hauled train in Britain this year!
The train will be hauled by "Nunney Castle", pictured, or "Oliver Cromwell". Bookings: