The partial redoubling of the 51 mile Oxford to Worcester Cotswold route was completed in September by Network Rail in conjunction with First Great Western, Gloucestershire County Council and the Department for Transport.
The line had been made into a single line route for 41 miles in the 1970s by a British Railways organisation who struggled to keep the line open, and many are thankful today that they accomplished this.
The only double track section remaining was for 10 miles between Moreton In Marsh and Ascott Under Wychwood and in 2006, Network Rail started project planning and scoping out what improvements could be made re-instating as much of the missing double track as possible.
This was helped by the Cotswold Line Promotion Group who put more and more pressure on Network Rail and Politicians alike to upgrade the line. Gloucestershire County Council joined in and the £70m required was found in partnership with other bodies.
The line was blocked for engineering work several times from the summer of 2009 until this summer which allowed 21 miles of double track to be re-instated (including through Chipping Camden Tunnel. New platforms were built at Charlbury, Ascott, and Honeybourne with several Level crossings upgraded along with signalling equipment on the route.
The line is also the route to the Ministry of Defence Long Marston depot now also used for storing off-lease carriages, wagons and locomotives. The connection at Honeybourne to the depot was rearranged and passive provision made for when the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway reaches the station there.
The line’s future is now secure and it is likely that more services will be operated as a result of the upgrade and they will be more reliable as most of the bottleneck single lines sections have been done away with.
A book has been written by local Author John Stretton and Network Rail’s Tim Maddocks detailing the lines history and the £70m upgrade called:
PAST & PRESENT - THE COTSWOLD LINE: WORCESTER TO OXFORD
By John Stretton and Tim Maddocks
Silver Link Publishing Ltd, The Trundle, Ringstead Road, Great Addington, Kettering, Northants. NN14 4BW. Paperback. 238x172 mm. 128pp. ISBN 978 1 85895 275 8. £19.99
Silver Link's Past & Present popular series is tried and tested, with approaching 100 titles published. This new one covers the whole of the route from Worcester (Shrub Hill) to Oxford but with a distinct variation, for as well as having the comparative pictures, where an old photograph is shown alongside the same vantage point in more modern times, there are views of men at work restoring parts of the route.
As is well known, with numerous articles and photographs in the railway press, Network Rail have been involved with a £70m project to redouble much of the route, singled by BR in 1970! After early works in Chipping Campden tunnel, more recent tasks included replacement of a single bridge by a new double version (at Honeybourne in October 2010), new second platforms at Charlbury and Ascott-under-Wychwood (opened in June 2011), re-instating the sidings at Honeybourne, and re-instating the second platform at Honeybourne and provision of a new turn-back semaphore at Moreton-in-Marsh (!) - all completed by August 2011.
Another break with tradition is that the book has been created in conjunction with Network Rail, with the captions written by Tim Maddocks, an NR employee. The whole is a compelling story, accompanied by a welter of superb photographs, published in colour throughout, making for both a fascinating read and a long-lasting record of the route and the recent achievements.
A limited Subscription Edition is planned, with extra 32 pages further updating the story, hardback and the facility to have one’s name in the book as a souvenir. Costing £30, interest in this should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org BY OCTOBER 7TH 2011.