West of England Main Line

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West of England Main Line
Templecombe 159004.jpg
Templecombe station
Type Suburban rail, Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Stations 22
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) South West Trains
Depot(s) Salisbury TMD
Rolling stock Class 158 "Express Sprinter"
Class 159 "South Western Turbo"
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed 90 mph maximum
West of England Main Line
0.00 London Waterloo
South Western Main Line
47.76 Basingstoke
50.26 Worting Junction
and Battledown Flyover
to Southampton
55.56 Overton
59.08 Whitchurch
Didcot - Winchester
to Southampton via Longparish
to Southampton via Andover Town
66.24 Andover
Red Post Junctionto Cheltenham
72.61 Grateley
to Bulford Camp
Idmiston Halt
to Southampton
83.48 Salisbury
to Westbury
Wilton South
Barford St Martin Viaduct
Fovant Military Railway
96.18 Tisbury
Tisbury West
105.23 Gillingham
Gillingham Viaduct
Buckhorn Weston Tunnel
S&DJR, Bath - Bournemouth
111.99 Templecombe
Milborne Port
118.05 Sherborne
Castle Cary to Weymouth
to Yeovil Town
122.60 Yeovil Junction
Sutton Bingham
131.41 Crewkerne
Crewkerne Tunnel
Chard Junction
139.44 Chard Junction
Chard Branch Line
144.51 Axminster
to Lyme Regis
to Seaton
Seaton Junction
Honiton Tunnel
154.70 Honiton
Roundball Halt
to Sidmouth
River Otter Viaduct
159.30 Feniton
163.03 Whimple
Cranbrook opening 2015
Broad Clyst
168.55 Pinhoe
Whipton Bridge Halt
Exmouth Junctionto Exmouth
Mount Pleasant Road Halt
Blackboy Tunnel
170.90 St James Park
171.38 Exeter Central
St David's Tunnel
to Penzance
172.15 Exeter St Davids
Red Cow Crossing
Cowley Bridge Jnto Taunton
to Barnstapleand former route to Plymouth

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 to Andover, opened 3 July 1854
    • Andover to Salisbury, opened 1 May 1857
  • Between Salisbury and Exeter:
    • Salisbury — Yeovil opened 2 May 1859
    • Yeovil — Exeter opened 19 July 1860
  • Branches:
    • To Yeovil Town joint station with the GWR
    • To Chard joint station with the GWR
    • To Lyme Regis from Axminster
    • To Seaton from Seaton Junction (closed)
    • To Sidmouth from Sidmouth Junction (also alternative route to Exmouth)
    • To Exmouth from Exmouth Junction near 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.[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 West Trains using Class 159 and Class 158 trains. They generally run half-hourly from London to Salisbury and hourly to Exeter, calling at Clapham Junction, Woking and then most stations between Basingstoke and Exeter St Davids although some smaller stations east of Salisbury and near Exeter have a rduced service.[3]

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,[4] 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 2015-10-15. 
  4. ^ "Route 4: Wessex Routes" (PDF). Route Plans. Network Rail. 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008.