Henley Branch Line

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This article is about the railway line to Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. For the former branch line to Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, see Henley-in-Arden railway station.
Henley Branch Line
The new Regatta Line branding.
Type Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Berkshire
South East England
Termini Twyford
Opening 1857
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) First Great Western
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Old gauge 7 ft (2,134 mm)
Operating speed 50 mph (80 km/h)
Henley Branch Line
Shiplake Railway Bridge
(River Thames)
Great Western Main Line
( Reading – Paddington )
A new sign at Henley-on-Thames showing the Regatta Line name

The Henley Branch Line is a branch railway line between Twyford and Henley-on-Thames, between the English counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. It was built by the Great Western Railway in 1857. Train services are provided by First Great Western.

The line was branded The Regatta Line in summer 2006 by Oxfordshire County Council and First Great Western, after the famous Henley Regatta. The railway provides good access to the River Thames and the Thames Path.


From a junction with the Great Western Main Line at Twyford railway station, it turns north and goes under the A4 on its way to the first stop at Wargrave. From Wargrave, it crosses the River Thames into Oxfordshire and proceeds to Shiplake, the second stop on the line. Finally, from Shiplake it continues to the town of Henley-on-Thames, where the line terminates. The speed limit is 50 mph along most of line, except for the Shiplake bridge, which is 30 mph for multiple units (10 mph for any other type of train), and the approach to Twyford, which is 25 mph.

This line is 4 12 miles (7.2 km) long and is not currently electrified. Electrification of the branch was announced in July 2012[1][2] and was started in April 2015; as of that time, markings have been placed next to the track where the overhead wire masts are to go and a significant number of trees have been trimmed or removed; re-signalling was also carried out during this time. This is in conjunction with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line.

Train services[edit]

Since December 2008 weekday services run at approximately 50 minute intervals between Twyford, on the Great Western Main Line, and Henley, with some through trains to and from London Paddington at peak times. At weekends the service is hourly. Additional services are provided during Henley Regatta at the beginning of July. All trains are operated by First Great Western, using Class 165/166 Turbo diesel trains. Once the electrification has been completed, services will be formed of Class 365 and Class 387 trains once they are cascaded from Thameslink and Great Northern.[3]


The line was opened by the Great Western Railway in 1857. The only intermediate station was Shiplake. Originally laid as a single line to the GWR's 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge the branch was converted to standard gauge on 24 March 1876, the last line in GWR ownership at that time to be done.[clarification needed] The line was converted to double track in 1897, just in time for the Regatta of that year. In 1900 a station was provided at Wargrave, after repeated requests from the villagers.

The line was singled again in June 1961, although a passing loop was retained at Shiplake until 1968. The last steam-hauled passenger train ran in 1963 and when goods traffic was withdrawn by the Western Region of British Railways in 1964 it meant the end of steam locomotive working on the branch and the removal of the various sidings and buildings serving the traffic. Since then the line has been single throughout, but it retains minimal signalling, controlled from the new Thames Valley Signalling Centre at Didcot (since December 2010), which permits a second train to follow another in the same direction. In 1992 a steam service was operated on two Sundays as an attraction. The buildings at Henley were demolished in 1975; the present building was erected in 1985. Wargrave and Shiplake station buildings were demolished in 1985 and replaced by bus shelters. Since the privatisation of British Rail, the line has been operated by Thames Trains and First Great Western.

Regatta Line branding[edit]

As is now common practice for branch lines, the Regatta Line brand has been introduced to focus public awareness of the train services. The name reflects the Henley Regatta, for which the town of Henley-on-Thames is most famous. The logo depicts a number of rowing oars, again to reflect the connection with the Regatta, plus a stylised image of Henley Bridge – only three of the five arches of this 18th-century stone-built bridge are shown. The blue colouring signifies the river, and the purple is one of First Group's corporate colours.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Electrification programme central to UK government's £9·4bn rail strategy". Railway Gazette International. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Briginshaw, David (16 July 2012). "British government announces major rail investment plan". International Railway Journal (Simmons-Boardman Publishing). Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  3. ^ http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/policy/single-view/view/first-great-western-plans-at300s-to-cornwall.html

Further reading[edit]

  • Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1. 
  • Karau, Paul (1982). An illustrated history of the Henley-on-Thames Branch. Didcot: Wild Swan Publications. ISBN 0-906867-03-7. 
  • Mitchell, Vic and Smith, Keith (2002). Branch Lines to Henley, Windsor and Marlow. Middleton Press. ISBN 1-901706-77-X. 

External links[edit]