Dorset Area Rail Transport System (DARTS)

A proposal to unblock the gridlock across Dorset and West Hampshire

Proposals . / . Route Map. / . Futures . / . Summary . / . Timetables
Slideshow presentation to Councillors

Author : Stuart Hall RIP with additional input from :-

  • Andy Hadley, Poole Agenda 21
  • Derek English, Member of Railway Development Society & Light Rail Transit Association
  • Angela Pooley, East Dorset Friends of the Earth
  • and other interested volunteers

    Summary Purpose

    The team describe a way forward for the public transport network in the Christchurch /Bournemouth /Poole Area. The aim is to integrate public transport, including developing the current rail network, and extending beyond it to increase the number of passengers which would lead to a reduction in car usage, traffic congestion and pollution. The main proposal is for the introduction of a light-rail scheme (Dorset Area Rapid Transport System (DARTS)) similar to that implemented in Manchester and elsewhere. (See the Light Rail Transit Association Website for extensive lists of schemes UK and worldwide). DARTS could use the current rail infrastructure but with the addition of some street running.

    The recommendations also rely on other aspects such as co-ordination of trains and bus transport. We see integration of ticketing and timetables as key to the customer experience. Fragmentation and competition over recent years has not served the travelling public well.


    Dorset Area Transport Executive (DATE)

    The formation of a single body needs setting up to co-ordinate all public transport activities in the area with the power to integrate rail and bus timetables and provide a more simplified ticketing system. In addition, the body would have the power to operate its own trains across the conurbation. The area of responsibility would encompass Swanage, Wareham, Wimborne Minister, Ringwood, and New Milton. This body would be able to give priority to the local rail services which is currently not the case with South West , Virgin and Connex Trains as their focus seems to be London and the other cities.

    Integrated Ticketting

    Competition between bus companies has not worked in the interests of passengers. Too many buses compete for passengers on the high-volume routes, and then if you have a multi-journey ticket, you can only use one company's service. We want the ability to board any bus with a valid ticket, as works in many European cities. The over 60s free-bus concession now gives them this right. The closer to fast, frequent, integrated and free for all, the better.

    Competition laws make it difficult for bus companies to initiate. The local authorities need to take the lead in this.

    A Local focus for Train Services - Dorset Area Rapid Transport System (DARTS)

    DATE would develop or franchise DARTS, a fast and frequent train service across the urban area beginning with a fifteen minute service between New Milton and Wareham. The service would operate from 0600 - 2400. The current timetable would not be affected as there is ample capacity to run these additional trains with minimum impact on the current schedules. We see the connection to the Swanage Branch as important, and the potential to serve the re-developments in Hamworthy using the goods line to Hamworthy Quay. Our original proposals used light rail trains on this route, but just more trains would be such an improvement. The proposed timetable is in Appendix B.

    Extra Stations

    In the interests of speed, and long-distance travel, various stations have been lost. For local travel, this does not work. DARTS promote re-opening of Boscombe station, and propose new stations at Staples Cross, near Somerford (a good site for park and train-ride), and Stoborough on the Swanage link.

    Light Rail Routes - Dorset Area Rapid Transport System (DARTS) ABC

    Other services could be introduced to link in the northern suburbs and the towns of Wimborne, Ferndown, together with Bournemouth International Airport (Hurn). The use of light rail allows a system which will co-exist with other traffic, and use dedicated routes where available. As easy as ABC (see Route Map):


    Summer 2007Withdrawing the Brockenhurst to Wareham service as being implemented in the new Franchise works the wrong way.

    the extra through train to Weymouth is good, but all delays as far away as Clapham will affect the stopping services.

    Nov 2006We understand the Wessex Electrics are to be retired. Particularly good news for cyclists (and guards). Vertical bike storage is a nightmare.
    Oct 2006SWT win further Franchise. They plan to boost capacity on rail routes by running longer trains and more services during peak times.
    Feb 2006Commentary on SWT Re-Franchise, which threatens to decrease local cross conurbation services again
    Oct 2005Submission to Draft LTP 2006-11 which suggests no government support for light rail, but that councils will lobby for increased frequency of services across area.
    October 2004Presentation to a public meeting organised by Ferndown Town Coucil. 12 attendees on a rainy night.
    September 2004Presentation to the Planning and Environment Committee of Wimborne Town Coucil.
    July 2004Presentation to the Environment Committee of Ferndown Town Coucil. A public meeting to be arranged in the Autumn.
    June 2004South Hampshire promotes Solentcard for use on all their buses.
    Apr 2004Audit Commission Report suggests UK needs to simplify process for light rail.
    Dec 2003Sadly after a period of illness Stuart Hall died, promoting DARTS to the last.
    Buses in London City Centre - pay before you board, with ticket machines at busstops
    Oct 2003Second Councillor briefing held at Eastcliffe United Reformed Church. Copy of slides in presentation
    Bournemouth Officer review of DARTS Scheme suggests very viable, with patronage of 30 million journeys per year.
    May 2003Virgin stop cross country trains going west of Bournemouth, SWT timetable does not make joining them easy. Further loss of service not welcome, but freeing space for DARTS.
    Jan 2003Announcement on reduction of train frequency between Southampton & Bournemouth not welcome (Connex Gatwick train now departs from Southampton not Bournemouth), but it frees space for DARTS.
    Nov 2002Desktop Officer Review results in commitment to feasability study, their forecasts for potential usage reinforce the feasability of the concept. (881 journeys per hour west and 618 east in a.m. peak hour, guideline at least 500 per peak hour in main travel direction)
    July 2000Proposal incorporated in Local Transport Plan for conurbation
    To fully investigate and develop the DARTS proposals within 0-5 years
    Summer 1999Feature article in Swanage Railway News. Dispays around the conurbation.
    Jan 1999Meeting organised for Councillors across conurbation
    Attendees included the MEP, 4 Poole councillors and 4 officers, 5 Bournemouth councillors, 4 Christchurch councillors and one officer, one (partner of a) Purbeck councillor and one officer, and local press and TV representatives
    Nov 1998Original proposal published

    If you would like to find out more, or assist in making DARTS a reality, please contact us at PA21 volunteers

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