|Type||Suburban rail, heavy rail|
South East England
|Operator(s)||South Western Railway|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Eastleigh–Fareham line is the railway line from Eastleigh to Fareham in the United Kingdom. At Eastleigh, trains join the South Western Main Line for onward travel to Basingstoke, Reading or to London Waterloo. At Fareham trains join the West Coastway Line for onward travel to Portsmouth or Brighton.
Services and stations on this line are operated by South Western Railway. It has an approximately hourly service in each direction. It is a useful diversionary route, used when the Portsmouth Direct Line is closed or when the lines around Southampton are closed.
The Eastleigh–Fareham line was built by the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) and opened in 1841. It linked the original Southampton to London trunk route (at Eastleigh) to Fareham which was a developing market town, small port and had a rapidly developing brick and tile industry. At the same time, the LSWR also built a line from Fareham to Gosport, with the intention of extending services to the city and important naval dockyard of Portsmouth. The area was the scene of competition between the LSWR and its main competitor in the region, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR). In the event, the latter were the first to physically reach Portsmouth (in 1847) though the LSWR followed in 1848.
The area around Fareham has very unstable soils due to the large clay beds which made the area suitable for brick-making. When constructing the tunnel just north-west of Fareham on the Eastleigh–Fareham line numerous problems with flooding and subsidence were encountered, and only with much use of bulkhead walls and props could the tunnel be driven through the hills. Once the line opened, problems continued with water damage and flooding. In the late 19th century the central part of the tunnel collapsed and the decision was made to build a double-track bypass line to the west through a cutting (to reduce the incline) on more stable ground, which rejoined the main line at Knowle Junction near Funtley. The collapsed section of the original tunnel was dug out, braced, turned into a cutting and re-opened in 1903 as part of construction work on the Eastleigh track next to the Meon Valley line from Fareham to Alton (also an LSWR line). To this day there are actually two Fareham tunnels, separated by a short open-air section in a deep cutting. The bypass line was closed in 1974 when the site for the new M27 motorway crossed the deep cutting of the bypass or deviation line. When the Gosport line was closed, goods traffic levels had fallen.
The line became increasingly important throughout the 20th century as not only did traffic to Gosport and Portsmouth increase, but Southampton's development as Britain's major port for trans-Atlantic liner services meant that the line became busy with traffic from further east on the south coast bound for the port. With the Meon Valley line to Alton opening in 1903 the southern section between Fareham and Knowle Junction became busier still.
The line has retained all the stations that it had when it opened, apart from Bishop's Waltham, a station reached by the Bishops Waltham branch line from Botley, and Knowle Halt. In addition, a new station, Hedge End, was opened in 1990.
- R.V.J.Butt, (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1
- Edwin Course, (1974). The Railways of Southern England: Secondary and Branch Lines. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-2835-X
- H.P.White, (1982). A Regional History of the Railways of Southern England, Volume 2 - Southern England; 4th edition. David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8365-5