Authorised in 1845 and opened in stages between 1852 and 1853, the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (OWW) built the line from Wolvercot Junction, north of Oxford station, to Worcester and Wolverhampton, via Stourbridge and Dudley, with Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the chief engineer. After a rather chequered history, and colloquially known as the 'Old, Worse and Worst' railway, the length between Oxford and Worcester was inherited by British Railways in 1948. More latterly known as the North Cotswold Line, it was singled in places in 1971, with a view to cutting costs, leaving just 11 miles of double track out of the 51-mile length of the route. With passenger numbers holding up and the birth and growth of the the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, that urged development, Network Rail began assessing the possibilities in 2006 of addressing the capacity restraints.
The 'Cotswold Redoubling Project', GBP70 million scheme to restore a total of 21 miles of double track between Evesham and Charlbury, saw preparatory work undertaken during 2009, including major work in and around Chipping Campden Tunnel, with removal of old material, a new drain installed and a second track laid in readiness for the later part of the Project. Elsewhere, approaching ten miles of track was repositioned, to enable a second line to be installed; thirty miles of new cabling was installed; and sixty sets of signal equipment relocated. 2010 saw a number of possessions, as preparatory work continued, including making ready the various level crossings between Evesham and Moreton-in- Marsh; attention to an overbridge just south of Evesham station; and, over the weekend of 2/3 October a major achievement with the replacement of the existing single line bridge east of Honeybourne by a brand new double width version.
2011 saw second platforms being returned to Honeybourne, Ascottunder- Wychwood and Charlbury; enhancements to passenger facilities at most of the stations en-route; the freight line to Long Marston from Honeybourne realigned; a re-instatement of a group of sidings by Honeybourne station; and provision for the eventual northern extension of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway to pass under the Cotswold line, to gain access to a new platform face at Honeybourne. The long campaign from the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, local authorities and individuals has borne fruit, with an increase in the numbers of trains servicing the route, further enhancing the travelling experience and giving the line a long term future. This volume looks at these newer works against a backdrop of past operations, including views of the engineering works involved and provides a fascinating exhibition of the evolving history.