GWR header image


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

/media/194208/dscn1731_thumb.jpg/media/194222/dscn1733_thumb.jpg/media/194236/honeybounre station 1966_thumb.jpg/media/194570/jackbosketthoneybourne166208-22082011_thumb.jpg/media/194577/jak_9815_thumb.jpg/media/194584/jak_9822_thumb.jpg/media/194591/jak_9834_thumb.jpg/media/194598/jak_9961_thumb.jpg/media/194605/jak_9947_thumb.jpg/media/194612/jb_honeybournestation22082011_thumb.jpg/media/194619/honeybourne sta_thumb.jpg

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 November 2010. 

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 standards.

"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 funding."

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 since 1971.  

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 line."

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.

25 comments for “Double track at Honeybourne once again – and passive provision for GWSR”

  1. Posted 21 August 2011 at 18:37:10

    You estimated the project at £750,000. This seems surprisingly achieveable given the amazing support for the Chicken curve distater emergancy appeal, which has already raised almost that much.
    Is the £750,000 only for Broadway to Honeybourne? and does it include any work at Honeybourne station or is none needed to run initial trains?
    It seems a good goal which could be achieved in the future. The Corwen extension to the Llangollen Railway is going to cost £1.2 million, for 2 miles of track and a temporary station and £4.6 million to complete, so the GW/R is lucky there!
    A good gala to make up for this year as a reopening & 30th anniversary will be a good start, then on to Broadway first!
    Hope to visit soon, would definately come to such a gala next year!

  2. Gravatar of stevesteve
    Posted 21 August 2011 at 20:16:20

    You mention honeybourne not having round for a run round loop,so a shunt-release system would operate, may I ask what that is and how it would work?

  3. Gravatar of RobRob
    Posted 21 August 2011 at 20:42:16

    Could I ask what Passive provision means in practice. I had a look at Honeybourne today, and there was no platform edge for Platform 3 and the track running next to it ended halfway up the platform because a new signal light had been erected right on the trackbed halfway up the length of the platform. It didn't seem as if they were thinking ahead to when the GWR would need to run in to Platform 3. What would have to be built or re-modelled in terms of platform, signalling, rail connection and buildings to get a GWR rail link at Honeybourne. Also is there any liklihood of extending towards Broadway from Honeybourne concurrently to extending from Laverton towards Honeybourne, or does it all have to come from the South?

  4. Gravatar of RichRich
    Posted 21 August 2011 at 23:16:45

    Have to admit, Looking at Willc2009s flickr stream - it does indeed show not only a Signal on the track bead reserved for the GWSR - which i hope will not end up being costly to remove and relocate, but also how much space the platform ramps for the footbridge seem to take up - would it be possible in the future to negotiate with NR to say, rebuild platform 4 and share the Long Marston branch into the station? That way giving the GWSR more of a platform with space for GWR Style buildings and if possible, a run around loop?

    But keep up the good work and i look forward to visiting again in hopefully a few weeks time!

  5. Gravatar of RichardRichard
    Posted 22 August 2011 at 09:58:03

    I have viewed the willc2009 Flickr collection of recent pictures. Whilst the re-instatement of double track on the Cotswold Line is to be welcomed I am having difficulty seeing how NR have been accomodating to the aspirations of the GWSR. Work on the national network obviously takes precedent over the long term ambitions of a heritage railway but the impediments faced by the latter once at Honeybourne are significant. I don't see how platform 3 can be of any use, given the cramped conditions caused by all that steel work. Then there's that signal, smack bang in the middle of the track.

    I saw pictures of redundant track panels - have they been offered/donated to GWSR? Is there any possibility of establishing a base at Honeybourne and starting to lay track south, eventually creating, somewhere north of Broadway, an English version of the golden spike moment when the two tracks meet?

    Under the new bridge, the single track panel seems to be on the wrong side. Shouldn't it be on the left when looking north, to faciltate the run up to Honeybourne? I assume the spare formation is being reserved for a foot/cycle path?

  6. Gravatar of Dave BDave B
    Posted 22 August 2011 at 10:23:17

    Encouraging to see the enthusiasm for an extension to Honeybourne! However, if you walk what can still be seen of the trackbed between Honeybourne and Broadway, and observe the dire condition of several bridges, you'll see that it will cost loads of money and years of effort. Meanwhile a more urgent issue is the extension from Laverton to Broadway. Work at the Broadway station site is going well, but lack of funds for bridge repairs, ballast & track will prevent trains reaching Broadway for some time yet. Let's get funds raised for that, Honeybourne is a problem for the future.

  7. Gravatar of LaurenceLaurence
    Posted 22 August 2011 at 12:54:16

    I believe the north and south labels on the pictures are the wrong way around. The first picture is looking south and the second picture is looking north.

  8. Gravatar of Darren FairleyDarren Fairley
    Posted 22 August 2011 at 23:33:44

    We need to remember that it is early days at Honeybourne, and are very grateful that several departments within Network Rail have given due consideration to slightly modifying what needed to be done to accommodate a GWR future connection rather than just do the doubling scheme as required. Signalling was fettled to allow for future connection to GWR and then sufficiently away from the main line to be separately controlled and locked out if required. Track layouts were modified to give enough room for GWR to reach platform 3. Significant materials have been donated by the contractor from the demolition works on site both for Broadway and Water Column system for Toddington

    Passive permission is such that the through Long Marsden line could have taken the shorter route and connection via platform 3 – instead it was routed round the back for the formation in the platform. Therefore the 3rd platform has been reserved for us. We didn’t have sufficient funds to have new foundations put in for platform 3. Passive provision has also retained sufficient space to slew in future the remainder of the branch to fully allow GWR metals to reach the platform without any crossing of NR lines. A run round loop is not an necessity for a shuttle service and sharing platform 4 (which may not get built either or maybe required for future services elsewhere would become more complicated) and we have not started discussions yet with respects to whether a building / shelter would be required and ultimately the station still belongs to NR. With respects to the track panels track from the main line goes through the formal disposal and recycling process particularly given the price of new materials and scrap values – therefore few materials can be donated.

    Whilst the signal is currently in the platform track - this is for immediate needs and means that a gantry is not required – it will be some time before we get there and this should suffice in the meantime and should not cost significant amounts should we need to move it in the future in the grand scheme of things. There are many options for the platform - it may in future be altered to beyond the main road bridge dependant on what happens to the bridge in the future so it may not have to be a short platform long term and limited by todays constraints – lots of plans and discussions to continue in the future. The great thing with the bridge is that had we got to platform three before the doubling we would have had to put a bridge in – we will work round any issues with it with NR though again that is sometime off.

    With respects to Broadway to Honeybourne vs Laverton to Broadway – we know what we need now to get to Broadway and the funding of the Honeybourne section will be a totally separate proposal given ownership and the amount of work required – so our attention is not off what needs to be done to connect to Broadway first. When we were extending to Cheltenham – in completely the opposite direction – we always kept Broadway safe and ready to be developed when the time was right – as the Honeybourne line we will do the same at the opposite end of the formation – its in the name after all – there is no reason to think its out of reach – its there for our future not necessarily the next generation.

    NB: the picture captions are the opposite way round typo’s on my part – apologies.

    PD GWR

  9. Gravatar of Southern Man in ExileSouthern Man in Exile
    Posted 23 August 2011 at 09:29:13

    While I look forward to the final proposal to reach Honeybourne, there are lots of (far less costly) things that could be provided first.
    Things such as a pagoda hut and platform at Laverton to provide a typical halt.
    A small extension through Hunting Butts tunnel - how many heritage railways can boast two working tunnels? - through to Cheltenham High Street Halt. While this may need a second platform at the Racecourse it will provide a much needed town centre location and the publicity generated as a result.
    The GWSR is fortunate in having a variety of different coaches available. From the ex-railcar that was converted into an observation coach through to the pre-nationalisation coaches in use as (I assume) a store alongside the running line at Toddington, not forgetting the parcel van in use as a museum.
    Why not maximize the use of the assets already there before we start looking toward Honeybourne?

  10. Gravatar of Darren FairleyDarren Fairley
    Posted 23 August 2011 at 11:44:36

    Rest assured all those options are being looked at as well - we have the long term future goals in mind as well for when opertunties present themselves - The Honeybourne passive provision was borne out of chance discussions over 10 years and what has been developed as such 'gifted' to us as a result.

    Having Honeybourne as the future aspiration doesnt stop everyting else which utlimately will keep and give the attractions to keep us going in the mean time.


  11. Gravatar of Ian CrowderIan Crowder
    Posted 23 August 2011 at 12:52:34

    The captions have been reversed (apologies) - also the reference to £750,000 removed. It is likely to cost considerably more that that, in fact. More pictures and information to follow.

  12. Gravatar of Neil CarrNeil Carr
    Posted 23 August 2011 at 13:10:32

    Southern Man

    Not sure what your plans were for the vehicles which you mention but the reality is that none of them actually belongs to the GWSR and all are far from being usable as running vehicles.

    Also we don't actually own the track bed to Cheltenham High Street and running through Hunting Butts would necessitate the removal and re-storage(where?)of about sixty wagons plus many thousands of pounds on track and ballast etc and a re-signalling of CRC. Any spare funds for track development would I'm sure you'd agree be better put towards reaching Broadway at this stage. None of the work at Honeybourne involved GWSR expenditure but it did establish an intention for the future and built goodwill with several Network Rail managers. A good thing I'm sure we'd all agree.

  13. Gravatar of David FrenchDavid French
    Posted 23 August 2011 at 14:16:56

    Re comment 12 above, about running south of CRC: in addition to the many thousands needed to buy in the track materials and ballast, several tens of thousands of £££ would be needed to securely fence the linesides to keep the local 'erberts off the track.

  14. Gravatar of RichardRichard
    Posted 24 August 2011 at 06:56:52

    Speaking of the good progress at Broadway station (comment 6), is there any chance of some details/pictures being put on the Broadway section of the website? Its only content is, and has been for a long time, that old photo. Thank you, Darren, for the comprehensive information above.

  15. Gravatar of GeoffGeoff
    Posted 24 August 2011 at 10:42:05

    You can get all the latest updates from the broadway blog, at

  16. Gravatar of Darren FairleyDarren Fairley
    Posted 24 August 2011 at 11:09:57

    An update on Broadway will be on the website shortly.

    We will then hope to have regular summary updates in future to compliment the good work recorded on the Broadway Blog.

    Darren Fairley

  17. Gravatar of Howard ParkerHoward Parker
    Posted 25 August 2011 at 16:05:51

    We have to keep the vision alive of what could be and at the same time not lose sight of the reality. Yes, I am sure that we all want to get to Honeybourne and Cheltenham High Street (keep doing the Euromillions draw!!) but it has to be one foot in front of the other and there is some really boring stuff like drainage that needs to be done and paid for properly first. Unless we get that sorted right along the existing railway, we ain't going anywhere new any time soon! And has anyone costed a decent upgrade to the running line throughout yet? There are some horrendous dipped ends still that make even 25 mph feel too much like Alton Towers!

  18. Gravatar of Darren FairleyDarren Fairley
    Posted 25 August 2011 at 21:29:11

    Rest Assured - I for one can confirm that no one has lost sight of reality, we have already invested heavily in improved drainage thanks to the donations so far and more is to come, P-way are working hard to improve the main line and keep progressing Laverton as you will note from the P-Way updates on the link. Plans for future work being put together though with a careful eye on funding.

    Nothing boring about day to day maintenance, working out in the open with views such as the Cotswolds one side Malverns the other - awesome!

  19. Gravatar of John GilbertJohn Gilbert
    Posted 27 August 2011 at 10:27:54

    The developments at Honeybourne are most encouraging. However I must protest vigorously at that signal planted squarely on the left-hand side of the new Long Marston track and therefore impeding the future GWSR platform road, (and requiring GWSR to pay to have it moved!) I thought NR was intending to give GWSR "passive provision" for the future platform road - which, in large measure, they have done, for which many thanks! But that signal!!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone knows that there would have been no problem at all in positioning it ON THE OTHER SIDE of the Long Marston track; there would have been no risk of mistaking its allegiance as there is only one track! So what on earth has gone wrong?
    As to the question of running around. Well, at the start of services there can be a simple siding back at the beginning of the curve towards Broadway where a shunter can be positioned to draw out incoming trains and allow the loco. to dodge to the other end. In the long term there is surely room enough on the curve around towards Broadway for that run-round loop? Not neat but effective enough.
    But that signal!!!! Was someone thick......................?

  20. Gravatar of Darren FairleyDarren Fairley
    Posted 29 August 2011 at 22:07:04

    Dear John,

    Your protest is noted but I must comment about ‘Everyone knows that there would have been no problem at all in positioning it ON THE OTHER SIDE of the Long Marston track…..’ Those ‘in the know’ responsible for its current positioning have applied recognised signalling standards based on what is there now and present – our coming to Honeybourne is someway off and any repositioning of it to a ‘compromised and off side’ position is not as yet warranted.

    There is always the hope that such repositioning would and could be accommodated either without charge or with due consideration to our heritage status – however comments such as ‘Was someone thick.......?’ will soon see such generosity and good will evaporate as fast as the words are typed.

    I have spent time with the NR staff involved with the project to work through our aspirations for the future which will now be so much easier due to the position of the operational track-work and how the main line signalling works and how we could come off the branch etc.

    The trackbed in and to the station, the platform face etc., do not belong to GWR, so with regards to the foresight and goodwill of considering our aspirations in the future we are very very grateful even if there may still be a few tweeks that will need to be made to facilitate something that, with the best will in the world, at present is no more than a wish and desire and something that we have not had to financially contribute to.

    Darren Fairley

  21. Gravatar of RichardRichard
    Posted 30 August 2011 at 19:33:50

    Many people who have seen that signal planted squarely in the platform 3 road at Honeybourne will sympathise with John G's bewilderment (comment 19). I am among them (comment 5). However, on a public forum such as this, the vigour with which he questions the intelligence of the decision maker is to be deplored. Network Rail's primary responsibility is for the national rail network serving the population of this country. That a heritage railway and its plans, years away from fruition, have even been considered, is something to be welcomed and for which gratitude should be expressed. I do so now. Enough imformation exists in other comments to learn why it was placed there and how the situation can be addressed at the right time. One ill-judged remark can do untold damage. Please heed Darren's words (comment 20, especially paragraph 2). The railway needs all its friends, not least at this time.

  22. Gravatar of Terry Terry
    Posted 04 September 2011 at 09:00:15

    Just wanted to say that I am extremely grateful for any help given by Network Rail, in these austere times it would have been understandable for them to have just ignored our aspirations. So thank you to all the NR managers for making the provisions that you have.

    I look forward to one day seeing race day specials coming from all over the country via Honeybourne to CRC, I assume it will be "all change at Honeybourne for Cheltenham Racecourse". I just hope that I live long enough to see that happen!

  23. Gravatar of Will StockWill Stock
    Posted 20 September 2011 at 16:18:00

    forgive me for being simple, but there was once a platform 4 at Honeybourne. Is there not enough room for the Long Marston line to be slewed onto the site of this and a run round loop installed between?

  24. Gravatar of LaurenceLaurence
    Posted 21 September 2011 at 23:43:43

    If you look at this picture of Honeybourne junction on google maps, you can see an old connecting line on the right side of the junction. Couldn't this be reinstated for the connection to the Long Marston branch?
    (link to the picture),-1.814643&spn=0.007408,0.023378&t=h&z=17&vpsrc=6

  25. Gravatar of peter buckleypeter buckley
    Posted 03 December 2011 at 05:26:52

    hello, why was this reopening event not advetised, if at all. I am disgusted as i would loved to have been there at honeybourne. i will surely take the matter a further. all you mostly get on the uk railways at present is continual gross imcompetence and laziness, causing total ruined days out, like the fiasco at euston sun 20 nov. after asking national rail enquiries if there was engineering work on the euston main line which, i was told that there was none. but i only found out that in fact there was work on, on arriving at euston at 0800, to hear that it had overun. there were lots of useless imcompetent lazy virgin staff hiding away and not getting amongst the stranded crowds as they should have, to help them, with the virgin stand swamped, with lots waiting. even the booking office had very few clerks with a very long line of people waiting a long time, not getting served. i had well over half an hour there wasted due to the shambles and imcompetence now, the norm on the uk railways. i sat on the the 0818 liverpool train for 15 mins, before the train manager told us it could could not leave till 0900. so i was forced to rush on my rheumatic legs < i am disabled > up to st pancras. i was off the great central line, having planned originally to go via nuneaton after being told wrongly about no engineering. n.r.e often give out wrong info. just imagine us trying to give info to those in india on their railways !!!! -- its a joke and n.r.e should return to the uk. here all transport enquiries should be given in the same centres, which makes sense. tfl bus staff, already give london rail info. on arrival at the g c r, i found that 3 locos had failed on the sat. it is just grief all over with this useless country, with greedy selfish imcompetent fatcats bleeding the country dry, living a life of riley, whilst us ordinary people suffer. most railway companies could not organise a booze up in a brewery and are only good at getting away < i say illeagally > with charging way too high rail fares, because the useless government protects the rich fat cats and could not care less about us poor ordinary folk. the rail company managers and shareholders live very well, by giving us a disgusting very poor over priced service, and making us pay way over the odds, to line the rich fatcat rail company managers pockets. i hear that in europe the public, unlike here, are treated with respect with much lower fairer railfares and an are given an excellent rail servcice. in the uk, since 1976, wages have rise only 3 to 5 times, ie from £ 60 p.w, to £ 300 to £400 pw on average. yet prices have risen from 7 to 25 times since 1976. the government and all big business is conning the public, with overpriced very poor imcompetent service. so no wonder we are all poor, with the fat cats conning us all to get even richer, and making us all ordinary folk even poorer. i worked for 4 years giving travel info help all over london on rail and bus stations, getting a good reputation for excellent service,< being called the expert and a legend > going well beyond my line of duty, to make sure the public got an expertly good service and sorting out so many problems, as i knew just what to do and those responsible, not caring at all, during the big tfl upgrade closures. i was complemented by tfl head office staff and the public. i often had to put right, the wrong closure posters and wrong written info put up by the regular station staff, the , , not mentioning tannoy nnouncements giving wrong info. i am now retired. i was always on the ball when the regulars often were not. if only all rail staff and managers went to the trouble that i went to,< there are some good staff, but outwighed by useless staff,> we could all get a much better service.

Comment on this item