A train crosses Carnon viaduct on its way towards Truro
|Operator(s)||Great Western Railway|
|Rolling stock||Class 150|
|Line length||11.75 miles (19 km)|
|Number of tracks||1|
|Loading gauge||RA6 / W7|
|Operating speed||50 mph (80 km/h)|
The Maritime Line was built by the Cornwall Railway as a broad gauge line of gauge from Plymouth to Falmouth. The purpose of the scheme was to link London with Falmouth, a port where packet ships sailed to destinations in Europe, Africa, and America.
The section from Plymouth to Truro opened on 4 May 1859, and the inhabitants of Falmouth soon put pressure on the company to extend the line to their town as originally intended. The extension opened on 24 August 1863, by which time the packet ships had been diverted elsewhere.
After the West Cornwall Railway was converted to broad gauge in 1867, the Truro to Falmouth line tended to be operated as a branch, with the trains from London Paddington operating to Penzance instead.
The original stations on the line were at Truro, Perranwell (known as Perran until 19 February 1864), Penryn, and Falmouth (Now Falmouth Docks). Penmere was added on 1 July 1925, and Falmouth Town (originally known as The Dell) opened on 7 December 1970. The line terminated at the Dell for five years before reopening to the original terminus.
The Cornwall Railway was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway on 1 July 1889. Following the amalgamation, plans were put in place for conversion to standard gauge, which took place over the weekend of 21 May 1892. The Great Western Railway was nationalised into British Railways on 1 January 1948.
Britain's railways were privatised in the 1990s. At privatisation, the line was operated by Wales & West train operating company for a few years until the company split. From 14 October 2001, the Maritime Line became the responsibility of Wessex Trains.
When the franchise became due for renewal, the tender was won by First Great Western (which has since rebranded as Great Western Railway) and the company took over the operation on 1 April 2006.
The Maritime Line is one of the railway lines supported by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, an organisation formed in 1991 to promote railway services in the area. The line is promoted by many means such as regular timetable and scenic line guides, as well as leaflets highlighting leisure opportunities such as walking, birdwatching, and visiting country pubs.
The Maritime Line rail ale trail was launched in 2003 to encourage rail travellers to visit pubs near the line. Of the 14 participating pubs, four are in Truro, one in Perranwell, three in Penryn, and four in Falmouth. 10 stamps collected in the Rail Ale Trail leaflet entitle the participant to claim special Maritime Line Rail Trail tour shirt. The Rail Partnership promote a Foodie Guide to the line to encourage people to visit local cafes, restaurants and food events.
Wessex Trains painted a Class 150 two-car DMU (number 150265) in coloured pictures promoting the line and named it The Falmouth Flyer. The unit continued in service with First Great Western when the company won the franchise but it has now been repainted in the standard fleet colours. While in the pictorial livery the unit worked throughout the southwest, and not just on its named line.
The branch was designated by the Department for Transport as a community rail line in September 2006. This aims to increase the number of passengers and reduce costs. Strategies for investigation include more effective revenue collection, a passing loop, improved bus links, and working with ferry operators and colleges in the area.
The line was originally dual track at Penryn. Evidence of the dual track can be seen at Penryn station, where two platforms are still visible. The Beeching Report in the 1960s instigated the reduction of the line there from two to one. In 2004 a proposal was put forward to reinstate a passing loop into the line, to allow for a doubling of service frequency. Funding was agreed with £4.67 million coming from European Union funds, £2.5 million from Cornwall Council, and £600,000 from Network Rail. The new 400-metre (440 yd) loop was installed over two long weekends in October 2008 and work on the platform extension was also started. The loop was brought into use ahead of schedule and to budget, with the formal opening by Kevin Lavery, the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council, taking place at Penryn station on 18 May 2009. Works included a new car park and waiting shelter at Penryn, in addition to the new loop, signalling and platform lengthening.
Maritime Line trains start from Truro railway station, usually originating from the bay platform, at the left side of the main platform beyond the footbridge. The trains join the main line for the first half-mile to Penwithers Junction, passing through the 70-yard (64 m)-long Higher Town Tunnel on the way. At this point the line to Penzance curves away to the right; the line to Falmouth was originally the Cornwall Railway main line and so runs straight ahead while the Penzance line was built by the West Cornwall Railway Company. The Maritime Line today only has a junction with the westbound (down) line; trains running towards Truro (the up direction) come inbound on the down main line, the same line used by trains departing Truro for Penzance. The line from Penwithers to Falmouth Docks is single track, with the exception of the passing loop at Penryn.
From the tunnel the line emerges into the countryside outside Truro. The small excavated area of land on the left is a Local Nature Reserve which supports rare plants due to its unusual position in a triangle of rail routes - the Maritime Line, the disused continuation of the West Cornwall Railway to the riverside at Newham, and a never-built route allowing Cornwall Railway trains to reach Newham. The route to Newham is now a cycle path round the edge of the city.
One and a half miles from the junction, the line enters Sparnick Tunnel, which is a little over a quarter of a mile long. Although the line has only ever had a single track, most of the engineering, including the tunnels, was designed to carry a second one.
The line, which heads south-westwards until this point, now heads towards the south and passes high above the silted-up Restronguet Creek on Carnon viaduct. This valley was the route of the Redruth and Chasewater Railway down to quays at Devoran, about a mile beyond the viaduct. It is now part of the Mineral Tramway Trails.
A half-mile later, the line comes to Perranwell railway station, nearly four miles from Truro. A modern shelter is situated on the platform, built in a style inspired by older railway buildings. As with all stations except for Truro, the platform is on the left as the train travels towards Falmouth. In the forecourt is the old Cornwall Railway goods shed.
The line now begins to head west, passing over the short Perran Viaduct and then south again along the hillside above Perranwell village before passing through the 374-yard (342 m)-long Perran Tunnel.
Turning south-eastwards, the line now passes over Ponsanooth Viaduct, the tallest on the line. Ponsanooth village is on the hillside to the right, while the River Kennal runs below to join up with Restronguet Creek.
The line passes beneath the A39 road from Truro to Falmouth at Treluswell, Four Cross, and then shortly enters Penryn which grew up at the head of a large inlet of the River Fal. Penryn railway station is at the top of the town, and we have views across the town to St Gluvias on the other side of the harbour. The station is eight and a quarter miles from Truro, and the platform shelter is identical to the one at Perranwell. Beyond the station the line passes over the Collegewood Viaduct. The last timber railway viaduct in Cornwall was here, but was replaced by this stone structure on 22 July 1934.
At Penryn there is a wide open space now occupied by student housing for the Tremough Campus of the University of Falmouth. This was the goods yard where wagons were loaded and unloaded. There is also another platform visible on the other side of the train, though it is overgrown.
The line soon enters the outskirts of Falmouth. The town was established at the entrance to the inlet that leads to Penryn; it has now nearly spread to reach that town. Trains first call at the Penmere railway station, useful for people heading for the top of The Moor in the town centre, or for the newer western suburbs.
Passengers get a quick glimpse on their right of Falmouth Bay before trains call at the concrete platform of Falmouth Town railway station, which is nearer the National Maritime Museum, the waterside, and the shops.
It is now just a short distance to the terminus at Falmouth Docks railway station, 11.75 miles (18.91 km) from Truro. Falmouth Docks are below the station on the left, Pendennis Castle overlooks both these and the Gyllyngvase Beach on the other side of the line. Sidings serve the docks but are little used.
The majority of passengers on the Maritime Line travel between Truro and the three stations in Falmouth, the busiest of which is Falmouth Town although passenger numbers at Falmouth Docks increased faster. Comparing the year from April 2008 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers at the Docks station increased by 214% while those at the Town station increased by 38% and at Penmere increased by 42%. Since the doubling of train frequency the increases have been greater still. For example, between the years starting 2002 and 2010 Penryn's passenger count rose by 247%, Penmere by 126% and Falmouth Docks by 266%. Falmouth Town has increased further by 109%. Even Perranwell (where the extra trains do not always stop) has increased by a healthy 93% 
|The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April. Methodology may vary year on year. Barking and Blackhorse Road are affected by usage of the ticket gates for the underground and that Gospel Oak connects to the North London Line section of the London Overground and is similarly affected. Barking is further affected by the ticket gates used to access C2C services.|
The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April.
Since the 1970s trains have only run between Falmouth Docks and Truro. Connections are made at Truro with services on the Cornish Main Line to Penzance, Plymouth and beyond. Trains run every thirty minutes for much of the day (except on Sundays when a less frequent service operates). They call at all stations except Perranwell which is served by alternate services.
Service in the 1960s was 16 or 17 trains daily, and had been reduced to 12 by 1975. By 2008 there were 13 trains each way, but with the new loop installed at Penryn the May 2009 timetable provides for 29. The enhanced timetable resulted in trains being formed with one coach instead of the former two, but the increase in demand has resulted in GWR allocating sufficient stock to enable both units to become two car units from 2012.Perranwell was a request stop for many years but trains have called without being requested since 2017.