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) First TransPennine Express (until April 2016)
Arriva Rail North (after April 2016)
Rolling stock British Rail Class 185
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Lakes Line
West Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line

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 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 before the current franchise, TransPennine Express, took over in 2005.

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.[2] 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 TransPennine Express using modern Class 185 diesel multiple units. These replaced the Class 175 "Coradia" units formerly used by First North Western and TPE prior to 2006.

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 to Preston Line).[3][4] 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 could be completed by 2017.[4]

From April 2016, services over the line will be operated by the new Northern Rail franchise rather than TPE as at present (December 2015). The new operator (Arriva Rail North) will continue running some through trains to Manchester Airport as part of the new franchise agreement and electrification of the route will still go ahead.[5]


  1. ^ "Network Specification 2015 - London North Western" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  2. ^ Lakes Line Rail User Group - Line History Retrieved 12 March 2014
  3. ^ "DfT Unveils Lakes Electrification Plans" Railnews news article 9 August 2013; Retrieved 13 March 2014
  4. ^ a b article in the Railway Gazette
  5. ^ Northern Franchise Improvements - DfT Retrieved 16 December 2015