Windermere branch line

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Windermere branch line
Windermere railway station 2008.JPG
Windermere station in 2008.
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Cumbria
North West England
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Northern
Rolling stock British Rail Class 153, British Rail Class 156, British Rail Class 185
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Branch Line
West Coast Main Line
to Carlisle
Oxenholme Lake District
West Coast Main Line
to Preston

The Windermere branch line, also called the Lakes line is the railway line from Oxenholme to Kendal and Windermere in North West England.

The line has a loading gauge of W6.[1]


The 10 mile (16 km) long line which opened on 20 April 1847[2] was originally built as the Kendal and Windermere Railway and at its southern end connected into the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway. In 1859 it became part of the London and North Western Railway, then the London, Midland and Scottish Railway at the 1923 Grouping. Upon nationalisation in 1948, it was managed by the London Midland Region of British Railways. Since 1994 and the privatisation of the British Rail network, it was operated by First North Western, then First TransPennine Express from 2005 and since April 2016 by Northern.

Originally built as a double-track main line, with through links to destinations as varied as Morecambe Euston Road, Preston, Manchester Exchange and London Euston, it was reduced to a single line branch in May 1973 when the West Coast Main Line (which it joins at Oxenholme) was re-signalled & electrified.[3] Freight traffic to the last active depot at Kendal had previously ceased in 1972.

There are no passing loops or sidings anywhere on the route (all the stations bar Oxenholme have just one operational platform) and it is operated under "One Train Working with Train Staff" regulations with only one train allowed on the line at any time. Entry to and exit from the branch is controlled by the signalling centre at Carlisle and before a service can proceed beyond the branch platform at Oxenholme, the driver must collect the train staff from a cabinet on the platform, which is electrically released by the Carlisle signaller. Once the train has made its journey to the terminus and back again, the staff must be returned to the cabinet before the train can either leave for the south or make another return trip along the single line.

All services have to be operated by Diesel Multiple Units due to the lack of a run round loop at the Windermere terminus. In BR days, the service was operated as a self-contained shuttle and passengers were forced to change at Oxenholme onto the electric trains but, since privatisation, some through trains to Lancaster, Preston and Manchester Airport have been operated.

Train services[edit]

Passenger services are operated by Northern using Class 185s and more recently by Class 153 and Class 156 diesel multiple units. Previously Class 175 "Coradias" operated the services provided by First North Western and TPE until 2006.

Services over the line are operated by the new Northern franchise, having taken over from First TransPennine Express in April 2016. Northern is continuing to use the old timetable, including through services to Manchester Airport.[4]

Electrification proposal[edit]

In August 2013, the Department for Transport announced that the line is to be electrified as part of the wider scheme to wire many other routes in the North West of England (such as the Manchester–Preston line).[5][6] The £16 million scheme will allow through trains from Lancaster and points south to use electric stock (such as the Class 350 "Desiro" units) rather than the current DMUs and also improve capacity on the route to allow new direct services to London Euston, though it is not yet clear whether the plans will include track and signalling upgrades to permit a more frequent service to operate. Funding was approved in 2014 and electrification will be completed at some point in CP6 (2019-24).[7][6]

On 20 July 2017, it was announced that electrification of the Windermere branch has been cancelled.[8] As an alternative, Northern plan to utilize Class 769 multiple units on the route; these are Class 319 electric multiple units converted to function as bi-mode units, capable of operating either under OHLE or on unelectrified lines.[9]


  1. ^ "Network Specification 2015 - London North Western" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  2. ^ "Opening of the Kendal and Windermere Railway". Westmorland Gazette. England. 24 April 1847. Retrieved 10 April 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ Lakes Line Rail User Group – Line History Retrieved 12 March 2014 Archived 15 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Northern Franchise Improvements - DfT Retrieved 16 December 2015
  5. ^ "DfT Unveils Lakes Electrification Plans" Railnews news article 9 August 2013; Retrieved 13 March 2014
  6. ^ a b article in the Railway Gazette
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Bi-mode Class 319s for Lakes Line". RailStaff. 2017-07-21. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hunt, John (2–15 July 1997). "The Windermere branch challenge: Railways - 1, Wordsworth - 0". RAIL. No. 308. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 20–25. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.