Double track at Honeybourne once again – and passive provision for GWSR
article by: Ian Crowder
posted on: 20 August 2011
updated on: 05 October 2011
UP0DATED: The 22 August sees the reopening of
all of the reinstated double-track on the North Cotswold line
between Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh, part of a £69 million project
to improve services on the Hereford and Worcester to Oxford
route. This major investment includes rebuilding of
Honeybourne station, including reinstatement of the former island
platform. This will eventually allow the Gloucestershire
Warwickshire Railway also to use the station.
This is a major step closer to the reality of passengers on the
national network once again being able to change at Honeybourne,
for Broadway, Toddington, Winchcombe and Cheltenham
The work has included replacing
the bridge carrying the North Cotswold Line over the trackbed of
the Stratford to Cheltenham line which was completed in
Darren Fairley, properties director of the GWSR points out that
this is 'passive provision' for the Honeybourne Line and that there
is a huge amount of work still to be done before the first train
arrives from Cheltenham .
"The existing junction of the freight Long Marston branch has
been moved to a point west of Honeybourne station and this now
comes through the station on what was the original platform 4 line.
GWSR trains will be able to use the island platform face (platform
3) opposite the face being used for Oxford and London-bound trains
(platform 2), this having been completely rebuilt to meet modern
"However, there is insufficient room for a run-round loop at the
platform so services would at least initially be shuttles or where
locomotives 'top and tail' or shunt-released.
"Eventually, the Long Marston branch track that occupies the
former down side of the formation will have to be slewed to the up
side and any future connection will be on the branch, away from
expensive mainline signalling requirements, but still allowing for
locomotive exchanges and special trains with first stop Broadway
and on to Racecourse - but that will be sometime in the future.
"Meanwhile, we still have plenty to occupy ourselves - not least
is repair of the Chicken Curve embankment collapse and continuation
of the extension to Broadway. There's then another four miles of
route to reinstate to Honeybourne with considerable work needed on
the bridges - however we do have a good and open relationship with
Rail Paths Ltd who own the trackbed from Broadway by-pass to the
outer edge of Honeybourne. They are supportive of us working
together in the future, as and when we jointly firm up plans and
The cost of reaching Honeybourne will run into an extimated
£750,000 at today's prices and would have to be funded as a
specific project in its own right.
But, as Darren points out: "The availability of space for a
brand new platform at Honeybourne and the possibility of a physical
connection with Network Rail is a real boost for everyone on the
GWSR - it is a wonderful goal to aim for and I'm certain that it
will eventually be achieved and within reasonable timescales."
Beneath the bridge that will eventually take the Honeybourne
Line under the North Cotswold route is a panel of track that
underlines the railway's determination to get there. This was
installed as part of the bridge work and was a suggestion from
Network Rail to cement the aspiration to reconnect and stand as as
a symbolic goal for future plans. The track panel was donated by
Andrew Goodman who removed the original single-track bridge for
Network Rail (the bridge was acquired by the Telford Railway).
Commenting on the North Cotswold line project, Mike Gallop,
principal programme sponsor for Network Rail said: "For many years,
the North Cotswold line has been suffering from a frustrating
bottleneck because of the singe track," adding that completion of
the scheme will bring direct benefits to thousands of passengers
from Oxford to Worcester. The first new double-track stations to
open were at Charlbury and Ascott-under-Wychwood, in June.
Demise and revival
Trains from Cheltenham St. James to Honeybourne Junction ceased
in 1960 when all of the remaining stations on the route except
Cheltenham Racecourse were closed, however trains from Worcester
and Evesham to Stratford upon Avon continued until 1969. The
Stratford to Cheltenham line closed officially in 1976 and a single
line was retained only from Honeybourne to the extensive yards at
the former military installation at Long Marston which are now used
for storage of locomotives and rolling stock. Honeybourne
station closed in 1969, and the North Cotswold line was singled as
part of the Beeching economies - indeed the line would have closed
altogether were it not for local pressure which saw creation of the
Cotswold Line Promotion
Group. The group was successful in persuading British
Rail to reopen the former down platform of Honeybourne station in
1981, serving trains in both directions on the now single
line. The group has also long campaigned for improvement of
services and re-doubling of the rout.
Now the long disused island platform has been rebuilt and is
serving London-bound trains once again and, in time, will see the
third platform face reopen for trains to Cheltenham.
Materials from Honeybourne platform, such as platform edging
stones and brickwork will see re-use at Broadway. In
addition, the former valves controlling the locomotive water
columns, which are in remarkably good condition, have also been
rescued for re-use.
The last section of double track on the Cotswold Line doubling
project, through Honeybourne station, opened on Monday 22 August
but not without last-minute glitches. Because of a signalling
problem, which was quickly sorted out, the first services to London
from Worcester had to be diverted via Cheltenham and subsequent
trains were delayed.
Nevertheless, there was something of a carnival atmosphere at
the station as the first trains arrived and departed and,
historically, two trains passed at the station for the first time
David Northey, redoubling project manager said to guests at the
re-opening of a newly double-tracked Honeybourne station:
"It's nearly 40 years since British Rail was poised to start
removing the double track in 1971. We have now put back what was
taken out then. It's a great achievement."
John Ellis, chairman of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group
(CLPG), which represents passengers and has long campaigned for
improvements to the line, said: "Great things are happening on the
Cotswold Line and it's a great day for us all."
Welcoming the presence of GWSR officers at the event he
went on to say "The CLPG has a warm affection for the GWSR, and
admires the enormous amount of work, and the vision, of the members
and officers. It was great to see at Honeybourne that provision has
been made for extension of the GWSR into the station. We hope that
the GWSR will be able to overcome their current problems with
embankment slips, and can continue with their plans to extend north
to Broadway and then Honeybourne, and connect with the Cotswold
The CLPG has made several contributions to GWSR funds, and plans
that the net proceeds of the raffle on its special carter train
to Portsea on 10th September will be donated to GWSR.
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway's projects director,
Alan Bielby commented: "It was a marvellous occasion and we are
very grateful to Network Rail for making provision for the GWR - or
Honeybourne Line - to eventually fulfil the dream of reaching the
station. There is a long way to go of course and there is
more work to do at Honeybourne before the former Cheltenham face of
the island platform, platform 3, can be used for our trains.
However, it is achievable: there's no doubt about that!
"Meanwhile, we must get on with the extension to Broadway before
we can contemplate tackling the remaining four miles or so from
there to Honeybourne - it will be a few years yet before the first
train arrives from Cheltenham!"
He added that his admiration for all that the CLPG achieved and
expressed his thanks for the money it had raised towards the
Emergency Appeal. "I'd encourage anyone who can to joint he
special train to Portsea - it should be a great day!"
An additional gallery of images of the work carried out at
Honeybourne can be seen here.
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