West of England Main Line
|West of England Main Line|
|Type||Suburban rail, Heavy rail|
|Operator(s)||South West Trains|
|Rolling stock||Class 158 "Express Sprinter"
Class 159 "South Western Turbo"
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||90 mph maximum|
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 First Great Western 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:
- Basingstoke to Salisbury
- Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway opened June 1901, closed 30 May 1936
- From Hurstbourne and Andover to Romsey and on to Eastleigh and Southampton: both closed. Link via Longparish opened 1 June 1885; closed 6 July 1931.
- At Andover, junction with the Midland and South Western Junction Railway to Cheltenham
- Bulford Camp branch
- Salisbury to Romsey, with a branch to Bournemouth
- At Salisbury, the Great Western Railway (GWR) line from Westbury and Bristol had its own terminus: the L&SWR continued the route southeast towards Southampton. This route today is the Wessex Main Line.
- Between Salisbury and Exeter:
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. This line is now closed, although the Dartmoor Railway heritage line is still existing as far as Okehampton, and the branch to Barnstaple which diverged off the route at Colebridge Junction is still in existence as the Tarka 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. 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. 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.
Passenger services are currently operated by South West Trains using Class 159 and Class 158 trains. They generally run half-hourly from London to Salisbury, and hourly to Exeter. 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, is silent on the Whimple loop. The Axminster Loop is centred on Axminster station, and does not extend to Chard Junction as originally proposed.
An hourly service runs between Exeter and London Waterloo (almost clockface except for a few early morning services) from 12 December 2009. Stations between Exeter Central and Honiton (Pinhoe, Whimple and Feniton) retain a two-hourly service, with services calling at Pinhoe, or Whimple and Feniton, with few services calling at all three stations, however in the Winter 2013/Spring 2014 timetable services have been altered and the calling points are Exeter, Pinhoe and alternately Whimple or Feniton and onwards to Honiton. All early morning an some services in the afternoon and evening will call additionally at all three stations. South West Trains no longer runs beyond Exeter from December 2009.
Typical off-peak services in trains per hour are:
- 1 London to Salisbury - calling at all stations west of Basingstoke
- 1 London to Exeter St. Davids - calling at Andover and all stations west of Salisbury
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to West of England Main Line.|
- "Route Plan C Wessex" (PDF). Network Rail. March 2010. p. 29, figure 20. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
- "Route Plan C Wessex" (PDF). Network Rail. March 2010. p. 9, figure 4. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
- "Route 4: Wessex Routes" (PDF). Route Plans. Network Rail. 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
- "Table 160: London to Salisbury and Exeter" (PDF). Electronic National Rail Timetable. Network Rail. December 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
- Network Rail Business Plan 2006: Route 3 - South West Main Line (PDF)
- Network Rail Business Plan 2006: Route 4 - Wessex Routes (PDF)
- Network Rail Business Plan 2006: Route 12 - Reading to Penzance (PDF)
- Ordnance Survey 
- R.V.J.Butt, (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 9781852605087.
- J.H. Lucking (1968). Railways of Dorset: an outline of their establishment, development and progress from 1825. Lichfield: Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. OCLC 31916.