Atlantic Coast Line, Cornwall

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Atlantic Coast Line
St Blazey Bridge 150219.jpg
The line at St Blazey Bridge
alongside the remains of the Par Canal
OwnerNetwork Rail
TypeBranch line
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)Great Western Railway
CrossCountry (seasonal)
DB Cargo UK (freight)
Depot(s)St Blazey
Rolling stockClass 43
Class 150
Class 220
Class 221
Class 802
Opened1876 (passengers)
Line length20 34 miles (33 km)
Number of tracks1
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Loading gaugeRA6 / W6A
Operating speed50 mph (80 km/h)

The Atlantic Coast Line is a 20 34-mile (33 km) Network Rail branch line which includes a community railway service in Cornwall, England. The line runs from the English Channel at Par, to the Atlantic Ocean at Newquay.[1]


The Atlantic Coast Line starts from Par station, in the village and port of Par. The station is on the Cornish Main Line, and trains to Newquay use a curve of almost 180 degrees before joining the route of the original Cornwall Minerals Railway (CMR) near the former St Blazey station. The route of the CMR is followed for the rest of the journey.[2]

Originally built as a standard-gauge tramway from the 1840s to serve Newquay Harbour, the line was upgraded for locomotives in 1874 and passenger services began between Newquay and Fowey on 20 June 1876. There was no connection at the present Par station until 1892 when the broad-gauge main line was 'narrowed' to standard gauge by the Great Western Railway and the connecting curve was built from St Blazey. From St Blazey, the CMR was built along the course of the even earlier Par Canal, originally built to serve the nearby Fowey Consols mine, as far as its terminus at Pontsmill, where the Luxulyan Valley is entered. The thickly wooded terrain and steep granite slopes of this valley surround the fast-flowing River Par, contain a large concentration of early 19th century industrial remains and have been designated a World Heritage Site.[3]

Shortly before reaching Luxulyan station, the line passes under the Treffry Viaduct, an historic railway viaduct and aqueduct that was built in 1844. This both supplied water to the Fowey Consoles mine, and also carried the main line of the Treffry Tramways, a precursor to the CMR.[3]

After Luxulyan, the line passes close to several former and current china clay works, before passing through Bugle and Roche stations.[2]

Between Roche and St Columb Road stations, the line passes through Goss Moor nature reserve, where a low bridge carrying the railway over the A30 road had been the site of accidents when vehicles collided with it. There was a 1986 proposal to abolish the bridge by diverting the line so that trains would have started from St Austell railway station and continued via Burngullow and the old Newquay and Cornwall Junction Railway freight-only line, joining the current route between Roche and St Columb Road at St Dennis Junction. This proposal was later abandoned after a new route for the road was found that avoids the bridge.[4][5]

After St Columb Road, the line passes through the last intermediate station at Quintrell Downs before reaching the terminus at Newquay.[6]

Passenger volume[edit]

The busiest station on the line is Newquay, where about seven times more passengers arrive and depart than the other stations added together.

Station usage
Station name 2002–03 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20
Luxulyan 1,005 791 1,160 1,252 922 1,214 1,372 1,420 1,836 1,428 1,654 2,170 1,904 2,404 2,394 1,770 1,470
Bugle 836 1,362 1,661 1,691 1,557 2,606 3,694 3,650 5,902 6,762 6,810 5,554 4,342 4,462 4,766 5,616 4,794
Roche 574 1,137 1,222 1,041 1,123 1,242 1,570 2,144 2,720 1,700 1,950 2,310 2,556 4,176 4,674 5,090 3,612
St Columb Road 813 733 1,031 1,390 783 1,222 1,590 1,966 1,792 1,548 2,188 1,904 1,684 1,878 1,858 1,936 1,840
Quintrell Downs 879 918 928 794 334 578 974 1,270 1,304 814 1,286 1,394 1,582 2,342 2,460 2,684 2,412
Newquay 76,103 83,712 71,301 77,188 87,550 126,244 102,232 100,252 115,354 104,504 97,278 100,208 95,478 102,990 108,308 103,172 97,136
The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail and Road estimates of station usage. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April. Methodology may vary year on year. Barking and Blackhorse Road are affected by usage of the ticket gates for the underground and that Gospel Oak connects to the North London Line section of the London Overground and is similarly affected. Barking is further affected by the ticket gates used to access C2C services.

The statistics cover twelve month periods that start in April.

Community rail[edit]

The Atlantic Coast Line is one of the routes covered by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, an organisation formed in 1991 to promote railway services in the area. The line is publicised in several ways, including regular timetable and scenic line guides as well as leaflets highlighting attractions on the route.

The Atlantic Coast Line rail ale trail was launched in 2005 to encourage rail travellers to visit pubs near the line. There are three in Newquay, one at St Columb Road, five in and around Par, and two at Quintrell Downs, one each at Roche, Bugle and Luxulyan. With 10 stamps, people can claim a free tour shirt.

The local passenger service on the line was designated by the Department for Transport as a community rail service in September 2006. This aims to increase the number of passengers and reduce costs and includes the investigation of how to get a better spread of train times during the day, and how to increase train services in the peak summer season. The line itself is not a community railway (unlike the other Cornish branches) because it also carries intercity trains during the summer and freight trains throughout the year.[7]

Focal, a local "friends of the line" group helped to achieve a 75% increase in Par to Newquay passenger services through negotiation and cooperation with the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and Great Western Railway.[8]


The line is single from St Blazey to Newquay, apart from one passing loop at Goonbarrow Junction, just south of Bugle. It is used by china clay traffic and also passenger trains in the summer, when there is more than one passenger train on the branch. The loop uses semaphore signals.[9]

A Class 802 on the Atlantic Coast Line operating the weekday service to London

Passenger services[edit]

Atlantic Coast Line
Newquay Harbour
302 mi 49 ch
487.01 km
Trenance Viaduct (
154 yd
141 m
Tolcarn Junction
Truro and Newquay Railway
301 mi 56 ch
485.54 km
Trencreek LC
Chapel LC
Quintrell Downs
300 mi 16 ch
483.13 km
Quintrell Downs LC
Coswarth Tunnel (
44 yd
40 m
Coswarth LC
Halloon LC
St Columb Road
296 mi 11 ch
476.59 km
St Dennis Junction
294 mi 21 ch
473.57 km
Branch to Burngullow
Tregoss Moor LC
290 mi 40 ch
467.51 km
Carbis Wharf Branch
Wheal Rose Branch
288 mi 03 ch
463.55 km
Monlinnis LC
Carbean Branch
Goonbarrow Junction
287 mi 40 ch
462.69 km
Rocks Siding (private)
285 mi 78 ch
460.23 km
Luxulyan Tunnel (
52 yd
48 m
285 mi 38 ch
459.43 km
Rockmill Viaduct (
52 yd
48 m
Carmears Incline
Pontsmill Viaduct (
92 yd
84 m
Rockmill Branch
Pontsmill Siding
Prideaux Viaduct (
52 yd
48 m
St Blazey Bridge LC
Middleway LC
St Blazey
282 mi 19 ch
454.22 km
to engine shed & Par Harbour
281 mi 66 ch
453.55 km
Cornish Main Line
to Penzance & Plymouth
Mileages from Paddington via Bristol and Taunton

Most passenger services are operated by Great Western Railway, including all local stopping services which are all operated by Class 150 units. In the summer on Saturdays, local services are replaced by express services to and from London Paddington with operation of Class 802 units. CrossCountry also operate on the branch line on summer weekends, with trains to and from Northern England. All express services do not call at intermediate stations on the branch line, instead running non-stop between Par and Newquay.

In 2007, a weekday through service between London and Newquay began running in July and August in addition to the two services on summer Saturdays and one service on summer Sundays. This service was named as the Atlantic Coast Express.[1]

Freight services[edit]

The eastern section of the line - as far as Goonbarrow Junction - sees a large amount of china clay freight traffic operated by DB Cargo UK with a depot operated at St Blazey.[10]

A freight spur connects the line at St Blazey with Par Harbour, passing under the main line from Par to St Austell to reach the harbour. Although originally built as part of the Cornwall Minerals Railway to convey mineral traffic to the harbour, today it is principally used to convey dried china clay from the clay dries at the harbour.[2][11]


On 25 May 1991 the first train of the day from Newquay to London Paddington derailed in the Luxulyan Valley. The train was formed of a High Speed Train. The passengers were transferred to the rear power car which was then uncoupled and run slowly back to Luxulyan railway station where the passengers were transferred to road vehicles to continue their journey.[12][13]

On 30 December 2006 heavy rainfall caused a landslide on an embankment near St Blazey, blocking the line. A replacement bus service was run to cover for the passenger service, until the line reopened on 8 January 2007.[14]

On 12 June 2007 a train collided with a car at Chapel level crossing, on the outskirts of Newquay. The crossing is an Automatic Open Level Crossing, where warning lights and a siren give warning of the approach of trains but no barrier is provided. The siren and lights were found to be working. The car driver was injured, but no-one on the train was hurt.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Par to Newquay (The Atlantic Coast line)" (PDF). Great Western Railway. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Ordnance Survey (2005). OS Explorer Map 107 - St Austell & Liskeard: Fowey, Looe & Lostwithiel. ISBN 978-0-319-23708-3.
  3. ^ a b "Luxulyan Valley". Cornwall & Scilly Historic Environment Service. 2006. Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2007.
  4. ^ "A30 Goss Moor Briefing". Cornwall Friends of the Earth. Archived from the original on 25 May 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  5. ^ "Moor dualling plans get go-ahead". BBC. 29 November 2004. Archived from the original on 16 May 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  6. ^ Ordnance Survey (2005). OS Explorer Map 106 - Newquay & Padstow. . ISBN 0-319-23707-9.
  7. ^ Department for Transport, Rail Group (2006), Route prospectus for the … The Atlantic Coast Line
  8. ^ "Local". Celebrating Success. Local. 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  9. ^ Vaughan, John (1991). The Newquay Branch and its Branches. Sparkford: Haynes/Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-86093-470-5.
  10. ^ "Depot Information - Wales and Western". Retrieved 24 May 2007.
  11. ^ "Transport Background Technical Report - South West Regional Spatial Strategy" (PDF). South West Regional Assembly. September 2006. p. 20. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  12. ^ Surl, Malcolm (2007). "Solo HST power car". Modern Railways. Ian Allan Ltd. 64 (705): 32.
  13. ^ "Derailment of a High Speed Train in the Valley". LoxSoft. 26 April 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Landslide closes rail branchline". BBC. 3 January 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  15. ^ "Driver injured in train collision". BBC. 12 June 2007. Archived from the original on 16 June 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2007.

External links[edit]