Cotswold Line

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A First Great Western Link Network Express Turbo unit at Evesham station on 19th September 2004, with a service for London Paddington.
Cotswold Line
Principal stations (from east to west)

Worcester Shrub Hill
Worcester Foregate Street
Malvern Link
Great Malvern

The Cotswold Line is a railway service running from Oxford to Worcester, serving the intermediate towns of Charlbury, Moreton-in-Marsh, Evesham and Pershore. Some services continue to Hereford via Malvern.


Towns and villages served by stations on the line are listed below, from east to west. The distance of each station from Oxford is given in kilometres.

Stations which have closed, many under the Beeching Axe were situated at Yarnton, Adlestrop, Blockley, Campden, Littleton and Badsey, Fladbury, Stoulton, Norton Junction, Rushwick (also called Henwick), Bransford Road, Newland Halt, Malvern Wells, Ashperton, Stoke Edith and Withington.

There are proposals for new stations at Rushwick and Withington. A long standing proposal for a new station at Worcester Parkway where the line crosses the Birmingham to Bristol line has made little progress.

The line is composed of all or part of the following Network Rail routes:

  • GW 200 from Oxford
  • GW 310 from Wolvercot Junction
  • GW 300 from Norton Junction
  • GW 340 from Worcester Shrub Hill
  • GW 730 from Shelwick Junction to Hereford


The line is single track between the following locations.

Other sections are double track.

Significant civil engineering structures on the line include Campden Tunnel (800 m in length), Colwall New Tunnel (1433 m), Ledbury Tunnel (1210 m) and viaducts at Worcester and Ledbury.


Stopping patterns vary. No train calls at all the stations on the line.

First Great Western operate services between Oxford and Worcester with some continuing to Reading and London Paddington at the East end of the line and to Hereford in the West. Between Worcester and Hereford there are additional services operated by Central Trains. A First Great Western service, formerly operated by Wessex Trains, runs infrequently between Great Malvern and Worcester Shrub Hill as an extension of their Bristol-Worcester service.


The line between Oxford and Worcester was constructed under an 1845 Act of Parliament and opened in 1851 as part of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway.

The Act required the line to be built to Brunel's broad gauge but delays, disputes and increasing costs led to its being completed as standard gauge.

The Worcester and Hereford Railway opened in stages between 1859 and 1861 when it merged with the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway to form the West Midland Railway.

The West Midland Railway became part of the Great Western Railway in 1863.


The line features in two well known poems.

Adlestrop by Edward Thomas (poet) and Pershore Station, or A Liverish Journey First Class by Sir John Betjeman

Route detail

Oxford to Charlbury

Distance from Oxford (km) Grid Reference Live Departures Board for the Station Description
On Route Off Route
0 SP504063 - OxfordFrom Oxford station the line heads north sharing the tracks with services to the North via Banbury and to Bicester Town.
0.2 SP504065 - - 200 m north of the station, the line crosses the Sheepwash Channel which links the Oxford Canal to the River Thames. Immediately east of the current line is a swing bridge over the channel which used to carry the LNWR line to its station on Rewley Road. The swing bridge is listed as an historic structure. The former station building at Rewley Road has been dismantled and re-erected at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.
0.5 - SP505068 - The built up area east of the railway, visible across the Oxford Canal is Jericho a district which originated as lodgings outside the city walls where travellers could rest if they arrived after the gates were locked. It features in the Inspector Morse story The Dead of Jericho by Colin Dexter. The Eagle Ironworks of W Lucy & Co, situated near the first road bridge over the track, produced many of the Lucy service boxes to be seen in the UK.
1.2 - SP496084 - After the bridge, the open area to the left is Port Meadow, a water meadow bordering the Thames with a Bronze Age round barrow. Two well known Oxford pubs, The Perch and The Trout, are visible across the meadow. The woods on the hill further west are Wytham Woods, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and mentioned in the traditional English folk song The Eynsham Poacher a version of which is included in the Fairport Convention album The Bonny Bunch of Roses and various live recordings and compilations.
2.8 SP498090 - - The former LNWR line now branches away to the north east. This line used to extend to Cambridge via Bletchley and Bedford. The line between Oxford and Bletchley closed to passengers in 1968 but a service to Bicester calling at Islip resumed in 1987. Proposals exist for re-opening the whole line and are included in the Draft Milton Keynes & South Midlands Sub-Regional Strategy but there are many planning and funding issues to be resolved.
3.7 SP493098 - - The line passes through Wolvercote. To the west, Lower Wolvercote was a centre for paper making, mainly for the Oxford University Press from the 17th century until 1998 and is the site of Godstow abbey, a Benedictine nunnery founded in the 12th century. To the east, Upper Wolvercote includes Wolvercote Cemetery where J.R.R. Tolkien is buried and the setting of one of the gateways between universes in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials novels.
4.3 SP489103 - - The line passes under the viaduct carrying the A34 Oxford Western By-pass and 100 m later under the A40 road linking London and Fishguard.
4.7 SP486107 - - The line for Banbury and the North diverges at Wolvercot junction.
5.5 SP478112 - - The line now turns west and the former link from the LNWR Cambridge line converges from the north.
6.0 SP474113 - - Yarnton Station was situated in the short distance between here and Yarnton Junction where the Fairford branch diverged to the south.
7.0 - SP478104 - So far, the line has been close to the Thames but the river now swings away to the south through a landscape dotted with gravel pits where archaeological digs such as theARC Mammoth Project have found remains of mammoth, elephant, horse, bison, bear, lion and hyaena as well as evidence of early people in the form of stone tools.
11.2 SP432142 - Hanborough The line now climbs the valley of the River Evenlode repeatedly crossing and re-crossing the river. Hanborough (sometimes called Handborough) station serves the villages of Long Hanborough, Church Hanborough, Freeland and Bladon, burial place of Winston Churchill. Hanborough is also the nearest station to Vanbrugh's Blenheim Palace, Churchill's birthplace, though a bus from Oxford will often be a better choice of public transport for visitors. Oxford Bus Museum is situated next to Hanborough Station.
12.9 SP418150 - Combe Leaving Hanborough, the line enters the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and only 1.7 km beyond Hanborough is Combe station.
15.1 - SP397154 - Building the line through Combe was difficult with several deep cuttings, four crossings of the Evenlode, and the diversion of a length of the river. To the south, just after the third river crossing are the remains of North Leigh Roman Villa.
16.6 SP383160 - - 1.5 km beyond the villa, the line crosses the route of Akeman Street roman road. The Oxfordshire Way long-distance footpath comes down Akeman Street from the north east to a point about 1 km north of the railway before turning to run through the village of Stonesfield and meet the line at Charlbury station.
18.7 SP365173 - Finstock The next station is Finstock. Between Finstock and Charlbury the large deer park to the west of the line is Cornbury Park, venue for the Cornbury Music Festival. The stately home at the centre of the park is Cornbury House, currently owned by Lord Rotherwick, a Conservative politician whose father tried to claim GBP 1.6 million from Oxfordshire County Council for establishing a public footpath across the park. The woodlands south west of the park are the remains of Wychwood Forest named after the Hwicce, one of the Anglo-Saxon peoples of Britain.
21.3 SP352194 - Charlbury Charlbury station is the first stop for faster trains over the line and retains its original OWWR clapperboard building. Sir Peter Parker lived nearby at Minster Lovell and was a regular user of Charlbury station while chairman of the British Railways Board (1976 to 1983). The patronage of the head of the organisation may have helped to save the line at a time when the Serpell Report was calling for more rail closures.

Charlbury to Moreton-in-Marsh

Distance from Oxford (km) Grid Reference Live Departures Board for the Station Description
On Route Off Route
21.3 SP352194 - Charlbury The Oxfordshire Way splits in Charlbury with one branch running north of the railway and the other south. The branches rejoin at Ascott-under-Wychwood offering a circular walk from Charlbury or a choice of routes to Ascott.
27.2 SP300188 - Ascott The line is now heading south west and the remains of D'Oyley Castle, built around 1129 can be seen to the north west as the train enters the village of Ascott-under-Wychwood. Few trains call at the station at Ascott but there is a signal box controlling the level crossing and the points at the end of the single track section from Wolvercot junction.
27.2 - SP302156 - The radio tower visible 3 km south of Ascott station is at Leafield Technical Centre, a motorsport industry site, formerly the HQ of the Arrows Formula 1 team.
29.3 SP281186 - Shipton Only 2 km beyond Ascott is Shipton station which serves the villages of Shipton-under-Wychwood, Milton-under-Wychwood and Fifield. There is a memorial on the village green to 17 local people who died on the ship Cospatrick which caught fire off in the South Atlantic in 1874 on its way to Auckland, New Zealand. Only three of the 477 passengers survived.
31.8 SP267205 - - Still following the Evenlode, the line now turns again to head north west. There is another level crossing near Bruern Abbey, founded as a Cistercian monastery in the mid 12th century but now an Adam style country house bought in 1946 by the late Michael Astor, son of Nancy Astor.
34.2 SP256227 - Kingham The next junction on the line was at Kingham Station from where the Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway routes headed west to Cheltenham via Stow-on-the-Wold and east to King's Sutton near Banbury. This branch line saw one major through train each day, the Ports to Ports Express between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Barry, South Wales.
34.2 - SP245227 - The village of Kingham is north of the station. The village west of the station is Bledington. The Oxfordshire Way which has been close to the railway since Akeman Street now turns west to Bourton-on-the-Water but it is replaced by another long distance footpath, the Diamond Way.
36.8 SP246240 - - The line crosses from Oxfordshire to Gloucestershire.
38.5 SP235263 - - Site of the closed Adlestrop station. The large house to the north east is Adlestrop House, home of the Leigh family including James Henry Leigh who was visited there in 1806 by his cousin, the author Jane Austin.
41.7 SP219290 - - 3 km further on, the line passes close to the mediaeval church of St Edward the Martyr, Evenlode.
45.5 SP206326 - Moreton At Moreton-in-Marsh, the line crosses another major roman road, the Fosse Way which linked Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) to Lincoln (Lindum). Moreton is the headquarters of the railway spot-hire company Cotswold Rail.

Moreton-in-Marsh to Worcester Shrub Hill

Distance from Oxford (km) Grid Reference Live Departures Board for the Station Description
On Route Off Route
45.5 SP206326 - Moreton Moreton-in-Marsh Station. This was once the southern end of the Stratford-upon-Avon to Moreton tramway.
46.5 SP204338 - - The line passes the corner of the Roman town of Dorn
47.0 SP206366 - - The line at last leaves the Evenlode which drains into the Thames and enters the catchment of the River Severn.
52.1 SP183369 - - Level crossing. The building west of the crossing is a brick works and the neighbouring pits were the site of jurassic clay extraction for the works. The village to the north is Paxford. The large country house to the west is Northwick Park, onetime home of Edward Spencer-Churchill and site of an American Army hospital during World War II and afterwards a centre for Polish refugees.
? SP168397 - - The old stone village of Chipping Campden on the Cotswold Way footpath and once had a station. From here the line goes into cutting, then the 800m Campden Tunnel under the Cotswold escarpment. In 1844 unrest among the navvies building the tunnel resulted in a riot - the 'Battle of Campden Tunnel'.
61.5 SP114448 - Honeybourne Honeybourne Station. From 1905 to 1977 this was the junction with the Great Western Railway's Cheltenham to Stratford line. The track to the north remains as a link to the large ex-military depot at Long Marston.
? SP094450 - - The large compound to the north with high walls, chapel & floodlights is Long Lartin prison
? SP072449 - - Level crossing. This used to be Littleton and Badsey station.
69.5 SP037444 - Evesham The line crosses the River Avon into Evesham. Opposite Evesham's Cotswold Line station is the former Midland Railway station, once on the Ashchurch & Barnt Green line. The line then crosses the River Avon again and follows it towards Pershore.
79.1 SO951480 - Pershore Pershore Station
91.8 SO858551 - Worcester Worcester Shrub Hill Station

Worcester Shrub Hill to Hereford

Distance from Oxford (km) Grid Reference Live Departures Board for the Station Description
On Route Off Route
91.8 SO858551 - Worcester SH Worcester Shrub Hill Station
92.8 SO849552 - Worcester F St Worcester Foregate Street Station for the City Centre.
103.7 SO782474 - Malvern Link Malvern Link Station
105.5 SO782457 - Gt Malvern Great Malvern Station
107.2 SO779441 - - Site of the closed Malvern Wells station
108.0 SO773435 - - The line enters the 1433 m long Colwall New Tunnel. The entrance to the old tunnel can be seen to the north. During World War II, the old tunnel was used by the Royal Navy to store torpedoes.
108.4 SO769433 - - When the tunnel is below the ridge of the Malvern Hills, the line passes from Worcestershire to Herefordshire.
109.4 SO769433 - - The line emerges from the tunnel.
109.9 SO756424 - Colwall Colwall Station. The plant next to the station is used by The Coca-Cola Company to bottle Malvern Water.
110.6 SO751418 - - Next to the bridge carrying the B4218 over the railway is an unusual five sided cottage. When the railway was built one corner had to be demolished and replaced by a plain wall.
116.8 SO709386 - Ledbury Ledbury Station
138.9 SO515405 - Hereford Hereford Station

External links

The Cotswold Line Promotion Group is a voluntary organisation with the aim of safeguarding and promoting improvements to rail and bus feeder services along the line.

Hansard for 3 March 2004 - Record of House of Commons adjournment debate on The Cotswold Line.

The Cotswold Line Railbus is a series of bus routes paid for by Oxfordshire County Council that link the villages of Finstock, Leaford, Ascott-under-Wychwood and Shipton to Charlbury station (route C1) or Chipping Norton, Churchill and Kingham village to Kingham station (route X8).


  • Atterbury, Paul; See Britain By Train; AA Publishing (1989); ISBN 0-86145-760-9
  • Conolly, W Philip; British Rail Pre-grouping Atlas and Gazetteer; Ian Allan Ltd (1976); ISBN 0-7110-0320-3
  • New Adlestrop Railway Atlas

Railway lines in Central England:
Main lines:  Cross-Country Route   Midland Main Line   West Coast Main Line
 Birmingham-Peterborough via Leicester Line   Birmingham-Worcester via Bromsgrove Line  
 Birmingham-Worcester via Kidderminster Line   Cherwell Valley Line   Chiltern Main Line  
 London-Aylesbury Line   Trent Valley Line   Welsh Marches Line   Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury Line
Commuter lines:  Birmingham-Rugeley "Chase" Line   Birmingham-Stratford Line   Birmingham-Walsall Line  
 Coventry-Nuneaton Line   Cross-City Line   Leicester-Loughborough "Ivanhoe" Line  
 Northampton Loop Line   Robin Hood Line   Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line  
 Stourbridge Junction-Stourbridge Town Line   Walsall-Wolverhampton Line 
Rural lines:  Cotswold Line   Crewe-Derby Line   Derwent Valley Line   Leamington-Stratford Line  
 Marston Vale Line   Nottingham-Lincoln Line   Nottingham to Grantham Line  
 Oxford-Bicester Line   Princes Risborough-Aylesbury Line   Shrewsbury-Chester Line