RESIDENTS of Maiden Newton have slammed Network Rail for starting overnight engineering works nearly a month before schedule without any prior warning – and then offering them earplugs.

Homeowners in Bull Lane, Station Road and Stanstead Road have complained that they are being kept up at night as workmen fire up the machinery needed for the engineering works at the access site, just over the road from their homes.

They said the company, which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure, sent them a letter saying the work would start on July 14.

But, the work started on June 5 and when local residents complained to the company about it this week, they were offered earplugs.

The company has now sent out a letter, dated June 16, saying work would start on the same day and has sent every household two sets of earplugs.

Martin Ridley, who lives on Bull Lane, said the residents’ main complaint was that they had received no communication from the company regarding the works.

Mr Ridley said: “What has really upset us is that they have worked there for 10 days now and never told us about it.

“It’s not the actual work, we know it has got to happen sometimes, it’s the lack of communication, lack of involvement and the general lack of dialogue from Network Rail.

“It has really affected us all, it keeps everyone up at night. My wife and I have now moved into the back bedroom because the noise is so loud.

“They fire up the machines and the engines at about 11pm and it is there all night. The machines make a hell of a row.”

The engineering works to the Wessex Line between Maiden Newton and Dorchester will involve removing the old track by crane, excavating the track bed and then replacing the ballast, sleepers, rail and other components using specialised road-rail machines.

Network Rail confirmed the majority of the work should be completed by the end of July, but work would carry on until the end September this year.

Mr Ridley added: “There are two extremes with the earplugs – on one hand it’s an insult but on the other hand they are showing some consideration for us, and I can’t decide which one.

“But earplugs are not the solution. We want more involvement and communication from Network Rail. In this case we had a statement from them a week after the work started.

“It’s not what they have done it is how they have gone about it.”

A spokesman for National Rail has apologised for the blunder.

The spokesman said: “The work on the railway around Maiden Newton is part of a £2m investment to improve and upgrade the track to modern standards.

“The scale of the work meant it was divided into packages for different contractors and regrettably a mix-up in the letters we sent out meant that our neighbours in Bull Lane were not notified as they should have been.

“We have to do that work at night when trains are not running and therefore it is vitally important that we keep our neighbours informed.

“That was where we fell down and we apologise for the unexpected disruption.”