West of England line

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West of England line
Templecombe 159004.jpg
Templecombe station
Type Suburban rail, Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Termini Basingstoke
Exeter St Davids
Stations 21 (Basingstoke to Exeter St Davids)
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) South Western Railway
Depot(s) Salisbury TMD
Rolling stock Class 158 "Express Sprinter"
Class 159 "South Western Turbo"
Line length 120 mi 77 ch (194.67 km) [Basingstoke to Exeter St Davids]
172 mi 12 ch (277.05 km) [London to Exeter St Davids via SWML]
Number of tracks Two (Basingstoke to Salisbury and Pinhoe to Exeter St Davids)
One* (Salisbury to Pinhoe) *Various passing loops
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed 90 mph maximum
West of England line
0.00 London Waterloo
South Western main line
Reading–Basingstoke line
47.76 Basingstoke
Basingstoke & Alton Light Rly
Worting Junction
and Battledown Flyover
South Western main line
to Southampton
55.56 Overton
59.08 Whitchurch
Didcot, Newbury and
Southampton Railway
Fullerton to Hurstbourne Line
to Southampton via Longparish
Sprat and Winkle Line
to Southampton via Andover Town
66.24 Andover
MSWJR (Red Post Junction)
72.61 Grateley
Amesbury and Military
Camp Light Railway
Bulford Camp
Idmiston Halt
Wessex Main Line
to Southampton
Salisbury Tunnel
83.48 Salisbury
Wessex Main Line
to Westbury, Wiltshire and Bristol
Wilton South
Barford St Martin Viaduct
Fovant Military Railway
96.18 Tisbury
Tisbury West
105.23 Gillingham
Gillingham Viaduct
Buckhorn Weston Tunnel
Somerset & Dorset Joint Rly
to Bath │ to Bournemouth
111.99 Templecombe
Milborne Port
118.05 Sherborne
Heart of Wessex Line
to Castle Cary
Yeovil Pen Mill
Heart of Wessex Line
to Weymouth
Yeovil Town
Yeovil–Taunton line
122.60 Yeovil Junction
Sutton Bingham
131.41 Crewkerne
Crewkerne Tunnel
Chard Junction
139.44 Chard Junction
Chard branch line
144.51 Axminster
Lyme Regis branch line
Seaton branch line
Seaton Junction
Honiton Tunnel
154.70 Honiton
Roundball Halt
River Otter viaduct
Sidmouth Railway
159.30 Feniton
163.03 Whimple
166.15 Cranbrook
Broad Clyst
168.55 Pinhoe
Whipton Bridge Halt
Avocet Line
to Exmouth
Exmouth Junction
Mount Pleasant Road Halt
Blackboy Tunnel
170.90 St James Park
171.38 Exeter Central
St David's Tunnel
Exeter–Plymouth line
to Plymouth
172.15 Exeter St Davids
Red Cow Crossing
Bristol–Exeter line
to Taunton
Cowley Bridge Junction
Tarka Line
to Barnstaple

The West of England line (also known as the West of England Main Line) is a British railway line from Basingstoke, Hampshire, to Exeter St Davids in Devon, England. Passenger services run between London Waterloo station and Exeter. Despite its historic title, it is not today's principal route from London to the West of England: Exeter and everywhere further west is reached more quickly by Great Western Railway services from London Paddington. At Salisbury, the line intersects with the Wessex Main Line.


When all sections had been incorporated into the London and South Western Railway, they consisted of the following:

The line was downgraded by being singled for long sections west of Salisbury by British Rail. This restricts the number of trains on this section, but passing loops have been added to alleviate this problem.

Beyond Exeter, the line continued to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock as the Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR. This line is now partly closed, with the surviving sections downgraded to branch lines. The section from Exeter to Coleford Junction, near Yeoford, is still in existence as part of the Tarka Line (which continues to Barnstaple). The Dartmoor Railway still exists as a heritage line and industrial line from Coleford Junction to Okehampton, where the track breaks. Tavistock lacks a rail connection, and the final section of the original main line, from Bere Alston, continues to Plymouth as part of the Tamar Valley Line.


Trains between London Waterloo and Exeter run on the South Western Main Line as far as Basingstoke. The West of England Line diverges from this line at Worting Junction, a short distance west of Basingstoke.

Network Rail splits the line into two sections: the first section from the line's start at Worting Junction (near Basingstoke) to Wilton Junction (near Salisbury) is classified as "London & SE commuter"; the section from Wilton Junction to Exeter is a "Secondary" route. The secondary route west of Salisbury is predominantly single track, but has three sections of double track and also passing loops.[1] The double-track sections and passing loops are Exeter to Pinhoe, a loop at Honiton station, 3 miles of double track centred on Axminster, a loop at the former Chard Junction station, Yeovil Junction to Templecombe, a loop at Gillingham station, and a final loop just outside Tisbury station.

The line's speed limit is mainly 80–90 mph over its whole length from Basingstoke to Exeter.[2] Speed is further limited around the junctions. The first section to Wilton Junction has a listed line speed of 50–90 mph, and the secondary section to Exeter has a line speed of mainly 85 mph with parts at 70 mph.[1]

Current operations[edit]

A Class 159 arrives at Axminster with an Exeter St Davids to London Waterloo service

Passenger services are currently operated by South Western Railway using Class 159 and Class 158 trains. They generally run half-hourly from London to Salisbury and hourly to Exeter, calling at Clapham Junction and/or Woking and then most stations between Basingstoke and Exeter St Davids although some smaller stations east of Salisbury and near Exeter have a reduced service.[3][4]

The Network Rail South West Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy (March 2006) recommended building an extended section of double track from Chard Junction to Axminster, plus a passing loop at Whimple. However, Network Rail's Route Plan,[5] is silent on the Whimple loop. The Axminster Loop is centred on Axminster station, and does not extend to Chard Junction as originally proposed. The line between Basingstoke, Salisbury and Exeter is not electrified.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Route Plan C Wessex" (PDF). Network Rail. March 2010. p. 29, figure 20. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Route Plan C Wessex" (PDF). Network Rail. March 2010. p. 9, figure 4. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Table 160: London to Salisbury and Exeter" (PDF). Electronic National Rail Timetable. Network Rail. May 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Timetable No. 20" (PDF). South West Trains. 
  5. ^ "Route 4: Wessex Routes" (PDF). Route Plans. Network Rail. 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Johnston, Howard (22 April – 5 May 1998). "Unlocking the potential to Exeter". RAIL. No. 329. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 20–24. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.