|West of England line|
|Type||Suburban rail, Heavy rail|
Exeter St David's
|Stations||21 (Basingstoke to Exeter St David's)|
|Operator(s)||South Western Railway|
|Rolling stock||Class 158 "Express Sprinter" |
Class 159 "South Western Turbo"
|Line length||120 mi 77 ch (194.67 km) [Basingstoke to Exeter St David's] |
172 mi 12 ch (277.05 km) [London to Exeter St David's via SWML]
|Number of tracks||Two (Basingstoke to Salisbury and Pinhoe to Exeter St David's) |
One* (Salisbury to Pinhoe) *Various passing loops
|Operating speed||90 mph maximum|
West of England line
The West of England line (also known as the West of England Main Line) is a British railway line from Basingstoke, Hampshire, to Exeter St David's 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 from London Paddington via the Reading-Taunton line. 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:
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 as the Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR. This line is now partly closed, with the surviving sections downgraded to branch lines. The section from Exeter to Coleford Junction, near Yeoford, is still in existence as part of the Tarka Line (which continues to Barnstaple). The Dartmoor Railway still exists as a heritage line and industrial line from Coleford Junction to Okehampton, where the track breaks. Tavistock lacks a rail connection, and the final section of the original main line, from Bere Alston, continues to Plymouth as part of the Tamar Valley Line.
Network Rail splits the line into two sections: the first section from the line's start at Worting Junction to Wilton Junction (near Salisbury) is classified as "London & SE commuter", while 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 four passing loops. The double track sections and passing loops are: a loop just outside Tisbury station, a loop at Gillingham station, double track from Templecombe to Yeovil Junction, a loop at the former Chard Junction station, 3 miles of double track centred on Axminster, a loop at Honiton station, and double track from Pinhoe to Exeter.
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 operated by South Western Railway using Class 159 and Class 158 trains. They generally run half-hourly from London to Salisbury and hourly to Exeter, calling at Clapham Junction and/or Woking and then most stations between Basingstoke and Exeter St David's, although some smaller stations east of Salisbury and near Exeter have a reduced service.
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, and a passing loop at Whimple. However, Network Rail's 2008 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. The line between Basingstoke, Salisbury and Exeter is not electrified.