Black route. South West Trains through Bournemouth bay.
Railways have been part of my life since childhood, they got inclusion here as I will sometimes jump a train for last minute appointments. During the period 2007- 2009 my Sustrans Bike It area was Bedford- Luton- St Albans, this often meant 3 sessions in 3 areas, whereby I could schedule a days work around knowing that the trains took 20 minutes between each station- and then after as always the time it takes to ride between schools or locations can be exactly predicted regardless of traffic or time of day. Adding this to the map of the conurbation with links to the Coloured Routes vs Queues gives you more travel choice options. This is part of the South West trains route Weymouth to London Waterloo, and more locally in the west Wareham and the Purbecks then East to Brockenhurst the New Forest and Southampton. (From 2015 Wareham will be running a connecting service to Swanage too!!)
Timings West to East are- Hamworthy to Poole 5 minutes // Poole to Parkstone 4 minutes// Parkstone to Branksome 3 minutes// Branksome to Bournemouth 5 minutes// Bournemouth to Pokesdown (Boscombe) 4 minutes// Pokesdown to Christchurch 4 minutes.
Across the whole bay=29 minutes (always a 5 minute layover in Bournemouth Central)
There is a regular train service through the bay that can be utilised well for active travel. Despite rumours of there being an upcoming ban on bikes on trains, this is entirely unfounded and South West Trains have exercised a lenient position towards bikers using peak and off peak services. Train guards (I used to be one) have told me they have been instructed to leave bikers alone. Most units used are 5 carriage sets, with 2 carriages allocated bike space, these are inadequate with poor floor holders and only 6 spaces in total. As you would expect, during peak commuting times these vestibules are packed, and some days you can see 5/6 people in each carriage, it isn’t ideal, but in true British style everyone just gets on with it. For those of a certain age, you will remember when Guards vans on slam door stock trains had double doors and could easily take 15 -20 bikes. On a more positive note, linking your bike journey with the at least twice an hour service can be a great way to shrink distances at either end of your trip. Rail operators are engaging with Local Authorities to try and promote active travel so we should see improvements in bike racks and facilities in the future.
On the Western end, Hamworthy station links perfectly into Hamworthy/ Upton residences and is 5 minutes into Upton Country Park, which links brilliantly to Broadstone and Wimbourne with the old railway Castleman Trailway and Blue Route. Or offroad from Poole around Holes Bay a very enjoyable scenic route Poole station links to the Blue/ Light Grey and Grey Routes in the series.
From Poole it makes sense to cut out the hill climb and get straight over to Bournemouth when on a tight schedule. The Blue route is by far the most enjoyable directional perfection to Westbourne and then centre of Bournemouth if theres no time to ride the longer Red Sandbanks then Yellow Seafront routes.
Parkstone and Branksome may also suit short commutes, Branksome also being perfectly linked to the seafront by the longest of the 7 chines in the area shown as a Yellow route. This is the most superb tourist route from rail to sea which I envisage becoming a key link in the future, see here have written more about Chines and their use in the Yellow Route post.
Both Bournemouth and Christchurch are right in the centres so walking from anywhere wont take very long, without any difficulty getting exactly where you want when you want train-bike links make sense to me. Yes you need to know when the trains run-comes easily with practice.
Timings for Bournemouth Station allow some flexibility, 5 minutes given for an easy link. Theres a large covered area for bikes at the Poole/ Weymouth Western direction platform, for those doing longer commutes. It’s worth mentioning that folding bikes can be taken on and off the train as needed, without any trouble. If you’ve never commuted by bike and train, there’s advantages, the Europeans often will have a bike locked at either end of their nearest station, nothing flash just a sensible option for avoiding car queues. Try it.