A community rail partnership line supported by GWR.

This important rail link runs for 15 and a half miles between the South Western Railway (SWR) main line at Basingstoke and the Great Western Railway (GWR) main line at Reading. The line runs through north Hampshire and south Berkshire, crossing the county boundary south of Mortimer station.

The line was engineered and built by the Chief Engineer of the original GWR – Isambard Kingdom Brunel – and opened on 1 November 1848. The route branched off the Reading to Hungerford ‘Berks & Hants Railway’ line at Southcote junction (named after a nearby manor house) two miles south of Reading and terminated at the GWR’s Basingstoke station which adjoined the London & South Western Railway’s station.

The GWR built this line to its own specifications. Not only did it use its unique broad-gauge track width but it laid the rails on longitudinal, rather than the usual transverse sleepers. Brunel thought that wider trains were more stable so safer when fast running. Consequently, his broad-gauge rails were spaced 7 feet and a quarter of an inch apart; much wider than the British standard gauge track of 4 feet eight and a half inches used by all other main railways. As a result of this difference, only GWR broad-gauge trains could use the Reading to Basingstoke line until 22 December 1856, when the company decided to add a third, inner rail at the standard gauge width to its broad-gauge track as far as Oxford. After this, standard gauge trains from Basingstoke and beyond could also access the Reading route, making Basingstoke a proper railway junction rather than a meeting point of two separate railways. Due to rivalry between the rail operating companies, it was another 13 years before the last sections of track on this line were standardised.

The Reading to Basingstoke Line has always been an important link between the two main lines. In addition to the current 30-minute frequency of stopping services operated by today’s ‘new’ Great Western Railway, it is used by long-distance CrossCountry passenger services. Freight trains make good use of the line, such as car trains which take vehicles for export, and Freightliner container trains use the route as part of their journey to and from Southampton Docks and destinations in the Midlands or further north. All this activity makes it a busy line both day and night. The line is not electrified beyond Southcote Junction so all trains using the line are diesel powered at present.

How you can help?

  • Join the Reading Basingstoke Community Rail Partnership stakeholder or voluntary groups.
  • Help with, or sponsor, improvements to a station.
  • Provide a service, business or promotion at a station.
  • Provide or help to look after flowers and planters at stations.
  • Assist with passenger surveys, events, art projects and promotions.
  • Improve access to or from stations via bus, cycle, walking or car sharing initiatives.
  • Keep stations free of litter and rubbish.
  • Organise or lead guided walks or cycle rides from stations.
  • Help ‘keep an eye’ on stations in the evening or at weekends.
  • Report any damage or anti-social behaviour.

and much more…

Please contact us for further information about how to help.

For further information:


Phone: 07900 103296