MP leads campaign for faster Weymouth to London trains

South West Trains service at Weymouth
Image caption The current operator - Stagecoach-run South West Trains - and FirstGroup are bidding for the South Western routes franchise which is up for renewal

A new faster train service from Weymouth to London is "vital" for the local economy, according to the MP for the Dorset town.

Richard Drax has been leading a campaign to cut journey times on the line to Waterloo, as the franchise comes up for renewal.

Infrastructure investment could reduce journey times by 20 minutes, he says.

The current operator - Stagecoach-run South West Trains - and FirstGroup are bidding for the franchise.

Image caption MP for Weymouth Richard Drax said investment in infrastructure could reduce journey times to the capital by 20 minutes

Michelle Hind, a solicitor and president of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said: "It's very difficult to get to London in time for the start of the day.

"In my own business we go to courses in London and we don't get to Waterloo before nine o'clock.

"To get across London to get to these things on time is extremely difficult."

How can we get faster trains from Weymouth to London?

BBC transport correspondent Paul Clifton:

Stopping at fewer stations along the way would speed up the journey, but that wouldn't work as most passengers are not going to the end of the line.

Services need to stop at all the intermediate stations to generate the passenger volumes.

The line west of Bournemouth was modernised on the cheap in the 1980s and there isn't enough power in the electric third rail to run either longer trains or faster trains.

To do that, the power supply would have to be upgraded, but the number of passengers does not justify that huge expense.

The two bidders for the next rail franchise - FirstGroup and Stagecoach - will focus on the much more urgent challenges of overcrowding closer to London.

Getting faster trains for Weymouth is a long way down the priority list.

In short - it is very unlikely to happen.

Mr Drax said: "It is vital that we get a fast rail service, a more efficient rail service to attract business, visitors, tourists - to boost the economy."

Train companies do not comment on franchise bids but the battle for the franchise for the South Western routes between Stagecoach and FirstGroup is expected to be decided in the next 12 months.

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