This line forms the southern part
of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (OWWR) (for a
description of more of this railway see the line from Worcester
to Birmingham Snow Hill).
The first part to open was the
short stretch from a temporary terminus in Worcester to Norton
Junction and Abbotswood Junction on 5th October 1850. Norton Junction
to Evesham opened on 1st May 1852 and Evesham to Wolvercot Junction
(Oxford) opened on 4th June 1853. Worcester Shrub Hill Station was
opened by the OWWR in 1852 but the OWWR lasted only until 1st July
1860 when it joined with the Worcester and Hereford Railway and the
Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford Railway to form the West Midland
Railway Company, itself becoming part of the Great Western Railway on
1st August 1863.
An interesting feature of the
early operation of the OWWR was the running of through trains from
Euston via Bletchley to Worcester and Wolverhampton.
Beyond Evesham the line passed Aldington
the next station at Littleton
(closed 3rd January 1966) and Honeybourne
it interchanged with the GWR's own line from Birmingham to Bristol
via Stratford-on-Avon. The line then passes into Gloucestershire and
on to Oxford.
In 1971 the track layout between
Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh and Ascott-under-Wychwood to Charlbury
was reduced to single track.
The disastrous effect of the track
reduction can be seen in the timetable above. At this level of
service it was no surprise that speculation was rife that it was
probably as part of a strategy that would have seen the whole line
from Worcester to Oxford closed. In his excellent article 'A question
on grant-aid' (Modern Railways, January 1973) John Boynton
describes the local service as "a fossilised remnant, remarkable
in that it still exists at all". Boynton was not alone in
"sensing something faintly sinister" about the level of
service and lack-lustre running times as such was the concern of
users at this situation that the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, an
entirely voluntary organisation, was formed, on 11th March 1978, with
the aim of safeguarding and promoting improvements to rail and bus
feeder services along the Oxford-Worcester line. In 1986, the Group's
activities were extended to include the Worcester to Hereford line.
It considers that a mixture of through and local services is
essential to the very future of the railway. The Group has worked to
increase use of both lines so that no further downgrading or,
ultimately closure, would occur.
A phased programme from the summer
of 2009 to 21st August 2011 saw the reinstatement of some, but not
all of the double track between Worcester and Oxford.