|Type||Branch line, heavy rail|
|Locale||South East England|
|Services||rail connection from South Western Main Line to Mid Hants Watercress Railway|
|Operator(s)||South West Trains|
|Depot(s)||Farnham Traincare Depot|
|Rolling stock||Class 450
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Operating speed||60-75mph (non-commuter services).|
Alton station serves the town of Alton, a terminus of the regular timetabled network and the railhead of the heritage Watercress line. From 1901 until 1933 the terminus was the railhead or junction of three (inter-main line) connector lines. The branch leaves the main line at Pirbright Junction near Brookwood, Surrey and was electrified (750 V DC third rail) during the late interwar years by Southern Railway. The line alternates between Surrey and Hampshire, terminating toward the centre of north-east Hampshire.
Aside from regular electric trains, freight trains operated by EWS and steam trains connected to the Mid Hants Watercress Railway (by way of rolling stock supply or special excursion) operate on the line.
The line from Farnham to Alton opened on 28 July 1852. On 2 October 1865 the Alton, Aldershot & Winchester Railway opened between those places; Alton station moved to a new site. A section of the 1865 western continuation between Alton and Alresford is the Watercress heritage railway, which ceased its regular hours timetable during the British Rail era in 1973 and retains a dedicated platform at Alton station. On 2 May 1870 the much more direct connection from Farnham to the main line, as operated at present, opened.[n 1] Alton became a junction station on 1 June 1901 when the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway opened, temporarily closed 1917-1924 as the track was taken up for use in France during the First World War but re-opened after local pressure. Use was light and the line closed in 1933. On 1 June 1903 the Meon Valley Railway opened from Alton to Fareham on the south coast. This line closed to passengers in 1955.[n 2]
- August 2006
The line closed briefly in August 2006 between Brookwood and Ash Vale due to a landslip at Foxhills Tunnel, causing most commuter journeys to be diverted via Guildford.
- April 2016
Heavy rainfall destabilised the embankment near Wrecclesham causing closure of the line between 13 April 2016 and 3 May 2016. Network Rail undertook further work to stabilise fully the earthworks.
There are two trains per hour in each direction between Waterloo and Alton (Mondays to Saturdays). On Sundays, the service is hourly until the early afternoon when half-hourly. Peak time trains take between 67 and 71 minutes for the whole journey; off-peak trains take between 75 and 78 minutes for the journey and Sunday services take 79 to 85 minutes.
Passenger trains that serve this line during off-peak hours also stop at the following stations (from north to south):
During peak hours trains typically do not stop at Clapham Junction; some peak trains also omit calls at Surbiton, West Byfleet or Brookwood. On Sundays, the service also calls at Wimbledon.[n 3]
From 1937 to 1967, Alton trains ran fast from Waterloo to Surbiton and then ran all stations to Alton. They formed the front (country) end of an 8-car train that split at Woking with the rear 4 cars running to Portsmouth. The trains ran throughout the day and left Waterloo at 27 and 57 minutes past the hour and took exactly 80 minutes to reach Alton. Additionally, there were trains in the rush hours that ran fast to Woking and then all stations – at 16:17, 18:14, and 18:17 (also stopping at Surbiton) to Farnham, and at 16:47, 17:17, 17:47 to Alton taking between 72 and 76 minutes. Trains from Waterloo to Alton from 05:25 to 08:25 left two minutes earlier than the standard departures and called at Wimbledon. All trains took the fast line from Waterloo to Surbiton. The last train in the evening was the 22:57 to Farnham, which ran to Alton on Wednesday and Saturday nights only, arriving at 00:17. On Sundays there was a 23:27 that only ran to Farnham. On weekdays the 17:27 and 19:27 had connections at Bentley to Bordon with a five-minute connection at Bentley and a journey time to Bordon of 15 minutes. The diminutive army town of Bordon had a very regular service on Sunday nights from Bentley.
On the upline the pattern was similar, with several departures from Farnham to Waterloo starting at 06:05 and then from Alton at 06:54, then every 30 minutes till 22:54 with three extra rush hour services in the morning. In those days the line from Farnham to Alton was double track.
In the 1980s the pattern was somewhat different: the off-peak trains ran half-hourly and stopped at Surbiton, Woking then all stations, being detached from the Bournemouth (hourly) or Basingstoke (hourly) stopping services. Around 1985 Alton lost its half-hourly service, with half the trains terminating at Farnham. Peak services were approximately every 20 minutes until 1985, half-hourly thereafter, generally going fast Waterloo to Woking, occasionally stopping at West Byfleet or Surbiton
In 1989 the service changed again with three trains an hour as far as Farnham: a fast train (Clapham Junction, Woking and all stations to Alton), a semi-fast (Surbiton, certain stations to Woking, then all to Farnham) and a slow (Clapham Junction, Wimbledon, Surbiton and all stations to Farnham).
A daily service runs to Holybourne Oil Terminal between Alton and Bentley. As a result, the 10:23 service from Waterloo stops short at Farnham and does not continue to Alton; there is no 12:14 return service from Alton to Farnham, this train beginning its journey from Farnham instead at 12:28. This is because the line between Alton and Farnham is single, with a passing place at Bentley, and worked on the track circuit block system.
Wrecclesham Traincare Depot
Wrecclesham Traincare Depot (slam-door trains were replaced circa 2005. At the same time, disused quarry and ballast dump sidings behind the carriage shed were removed and a number of outdoor sidings were laid for overnight storage and servicing of units.), or Farnham depot, in Weydon Lane, was opened by the Southern Railway at the time of the electrification of the Portsmouth and Alton lines in 1937. It was refurbished for the introduction of modern units when
South West Trains use the depot under the five-to-ten year government franchise operated by the subsidiary. The depot houses mainly Class 450 trains, but also Class 458 and occasionally Class 444 and 456 trains as well.
Notes and references
- "South West Trains – Landslide update: Alton line services". 17 August 2006. Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
- "Landslip rail line reopens early". Alton Herald. 2016-05-07. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
- "Farnham and Alton railway line to reopen after landslip". BBC. 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "British Railways Southern Region Timetable". September 1950. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Hampshire County Council – Renewal of the South Western Rail Franchise – Report of the Director of Environment". 18 January 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
- At Pirbright Junction, between Brookwood near Woking in Surrey and Farnborough in Hampshire.
- on 7 February
- Timetables show the line as "suburban". It is in practice a regional line and for the purposes of South West Trains Passenger Charter discounts and Void Day refunds for season tickets it is a Mainline route. All journeys from Alton, Bentley and Farnham are Mainline journeys. Journeys from Aldershot and Ash Vale to London Terminals (i.e. all London stations) and Zone R1256 Zones (a journey to London with Underground included) are Mainline, the remainder suburban.