The Alton Line

Class 450 at Alton

Photo: B. Jones

The Alton Line runs from Alton (Hampshire) through Bentley, Farnham, Aldershot and Ash Vale, and joins the London to Southampton main line at Pirbright Junction (between Brookwood and Farnborough stations).

Map of the route

Map of lines

History

The first railway reached Alton in the 1850s. Trains ran from Alton to Farnham and then on to Guildford via Tongham and Ash Green.
In the 1870s, a line was built connecting Farnham with Aldershot, Ash Vale and Pirbright Junction (on the line between Woking and Southampton), this is the route that trains now use. The line via Tongham was subsequently closed and part of the route is now buried under the A31.
Alton was once served by three other railway lines: The Meon Valley line to Fareham, the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway to Basingstoke and the Mid-Hants Railway to Winchester.
All three were closed, but the line to Winchester has been restored between Alton and Alresford as the 'Watercress Line' and sees regular steam and diesel heritage trains.
There was also a branch line from Bentley to Bordon, which may have potential for reopening if the government's plan for an 'Eco-Town' at Bordon goes ahead.

Class 450 at Farnham

Photo: B. Jones

Stations

Alton (Map)

Train services: Trains towards London leave from both platforms 1 and 2. The Watercress Line uses platform 3. Access between platforms is by one of two footbridges. There are also lifts providing step free access to all platforms.
Platform Length: Platforms can only hold a maximum of 8 coaches. On 12 carriage trains, the doors on the 4 coaches at the London end will remain closed.
Tickets: The ticket office is open most of the day, 7 days a week. Machines are also available.

Bentley (Map)

Train services: Trains towards London use platform 1. Trains to Alton can use either platform 1 or 2. Access between platforms is by a footbridge or flat crossing.
Platform Length: Platforms can only hold a maximum of 4 coaches. On 8 or 12 carriage trains, only the doors on the front 4 coaches will be opened. On 5 carriage trains, only the one door at the rear of the first coach will be opened.
Tickets: The ticket office is open until mid-morning Mon-Fri and closed at weekends. Machines are also available.

Farnham (Map)

Train services: Trains towards London leave from platform 1. Trains to Alton use platform 2. Access between platforms is by a footbridge or the level crossing at the London end of the station.
Platform Length: Platforms can hold full 12 carriage trains.
Tickets: The ticket office is open most of the day, 7 days a week. Machines are also available.

Aldershot (Map)

Train services: Trains towards London leave from platform 1. Trains to Alton, Guildford and Ascot use platforms 2 and 3. Access between platforms is via a subway or footbridge. The footbridge also has lifts providing step-free access to all platforms.
Platform Length: Platforms can hold full 12 carriage trains.
Tickets: The ticket office is open most of the day, 7 days a week. Machines are also available. The station has automatic ticket barriers.

Ash Vale (Map)

Train services: Trains towards London and Ascot leave from platform 1. Trains to Alton and Guildford use platform 2. Access between platforms is via a subway with steep staircases to reach both platforms. The station has no step-free access.
Platform Length: Platforms can only hold 8 carriage trains. On 12 carriage trains, only the doors on the front 8 coaches will be released.
Tickets: The ticket office is open in the mornings Mon-Sat and is closed all day Sunday. Machines are also available.

Services

Trains are operated by South West Trains, part of the Stagecoach Group.
Stagecoach currently hold the franchise for operating these services until 2012.

Trains

Almost all services on the Alton line are operated by either Class 450 'Desiro' or Class 444 'Desiro' Electric Multiple Units.

Class 450
Class 450

Photo: D. Hill

These four car units operate most services on the Alton line. Originally intended for inner-suburban work, they have since been used on longer distance workings such as Waterloo to Portsmouth.
Seating is mostly 2+3, with most units having a first class section in the centre of one of the middle coaches. Each unit has a quiet coach at one end.
4-Car units can be coupled together to make 8 or 12 car trains.

Class 444
Class 444

Photo: D. Hill

These five car units mainly operate long distance services. A small number of trains on the Alton branch are operated by these units.
Seating is 2+2, with each unit having a first class section in one of the end coaches. One of the centre coaches is a quiet coach.
The 5-Car units can be coupled together to make 10 car trains, or coupled with a Class 450 unit to make a 9 car train.
On weekdays, the 0844, 1014 and 1814 from Alton and 0653, 0825 & 1625 from Waterloo are diagrammed for class 444s. (Subject to availability)

Timetables

The basic Mon-Sat service between Alton and Waterloo is half-hourly, calling at all stations to Woking. Peak trains then run fast to Waterloo, while off-peak trains call additionally at West Byfleet and Surbiton.
Off peak, Bentley is only served by one train per hour.
Mon-Fri, one of the services at around midday does not run between Farnham and Alton, leaving Alton with an hour's gap between services. This is to allow a freight train to use the single-track section south of Farnham
On Sundays, the service is hourly until mid afternoon, and half-hourly thereafter. Trains are attached to Basingstoke portions between Woking and Waterloo.

For the full timetable, see the timetable page on the SWT website.