The Anonymous Widower

Bourne End Station And Improving The Marlow Branch Line

Bourne End station is an intermediate station on the Marlow Branch Line, where trains reverse on their way between Maidenhead and Marlow stations.

It also is a terminus of trains to and from Paddington station in the Peak.

This Google Map shows the station and its location.



  • The Bourne End Railway Bridge takes the railway over the Thames to and from Maidenhead.
  • The two-car Class 165 train on its way to or from Marlow.
  • The station has a short Northern platform, where trains reverse and a longer Southern one, that can only be used by trains going to Maidenhead.
  • There is a step-free interchange between platforms
  • All lines are single-track.

These pictures show the station and the surrounding area.

These are some thoughts on various ideas and issues on Bourne End station and the Marlow Branch Line.

Longer Trains To Marlow

Currently, because of the layout of the junction, where trains take the left-hand fork to Maidenhead and the right hand route to Marlow., all trains to Marlow must be only two cars.

I don’t know if modern trains can take sharper curves than the 1990s-built Class 165 trains on the route, but if it was the case, it might be possible to configure the junction to allow the Northern platform to be lengthened to take a longer train.

There are also other features of modern trains like a Class 387 train, that might help.

  • Selective door opening.
  • Walk-through design.
  • 20 metre as opposed to a near-23 metre car-length of the older diesel train.

It would be a tight fit, but I suspect that fitting a three or even four-car train in Bourne End station might be possible, if the passenger traffic needed that capacity.

Passing Loops On The Line

There used to be a passing loop at Cookham station, but this was removed in the 1960s.

This Google Map shows Cookham station.

Cookham Station

Cookham Station

It is probably one of those things that is possible, but would actually be a difficult project to  implement.

  • The users of the line wouldn’t accept a long closure.
  • The level crossing would add a large degree of complication and opposition.

I suspect that unless there were really pressing reasons, that a passing loop will never be rebuilt at Cookham.

Increased Frequency

In the Peak, the service between Marlow and Maidenhead is effectively two trains per hour (tph). The method is described in Train Services under the Wikipedia entry for the Marlow Branch Line. This is said.

The off-peak service is one train per hour in each direction between Maidenhead and Marlow. During morning and evening peak times a two trains per hour service is achieved by using two trains: one shuttling between Marlow and Bourne End, and another between Bourne End and Maidenhead/London Paddington. This is possible because Bourne End station has two platforms that may be used simultaneously.

I suspect, that some devious train scheduler has a method for improving on this in the Peak and perhaps providing 2 tph in the Off Peak all day.

Certain facts might help.

  • It only takes seven minutes to travel between Bourne End and Marlow stations.
  • It only takes eleven minutes to travel between Bourne End and Maidenhead stations.
  • Track improvements and modern faster trains might improve these times.
  • Modern trains probably mean that the driver can change ends in a shorter time.
  • Modern trains have various driver assistance systems to help timekeeping.
  • . Running two tph as a shuttle shouldn’t be a problem, as it is currently in the Peak.
  • Currently, four tph run to both Paddington and Reading from Maidenhead, with extra trains in the Peak.
  • Crossrail will add four tph to Paddington and two tph to Reading.
  • If all trains are modern, with floor heights compatible with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains and GWR’s Class 387 trains, then all train entry and exit, will just be a step or wheel across.

It probably all adds up to having at least two tph on the branch all day.

One problem that will limit frequency to two tph, is the lack of a passing loop on the line.

Two tph is only attainable, by using Bourne End station as a virtual passing loop, where the trains don’t actually pass. but the passengers do.

I suspect that train arrivals and departures at Bourne End station, are timed, to minimise conflicting passenger movements between platforms.

This is the current times of some movements at Bourne End station in the morning Peak.

  • 7:21 – Train arrives from Maidenhead
  • 7:24 – Train arrives from Marlow
  • 7:27 – Train leaves to Maidenhead
  • 7:28 – Train leaves to Marlow

These times give seven minutes for Maidenhead to Marlow passengers to change trains and three minutes for passengers going the other way.

They obviously give plenty of time for the driver to change ends of the train.

If we take the current timings  of Maidenhead to Bourne End and Bourne End to Marlow, we get timings for a complete shuttle of two journeys.

  • Maidenhead and Bourne End – 6+2*11 +4 = 32 minutes
  • Marlow and Bourne End – 4 + 2*7 + 4 = 22 minutes

The extra four minutes has been added as that is how long it takes to reverse the train at Marlow.

So if a minute or two could be shaved on the Maidenhead shuttle, two tph is possible.

Three tph are probably possible between Bourne End and Marlow, but using one train to run three tph between Maidenhead and Bourne End is certainly not possible unless, one or more of the following are done.

  • A passing loop is built between Maidenhead and Bourne End.
  • A better sequence of trains is used at Bourne End.
  • Trains run faster and call in minimum times at intermediate stations.
  • Some trains don’t terminate at Maidenhead, but go on to Paddington or another station.

I am left with the conclusion, that with modern trains two tph is possible all day, but with minor adjustments three tph may be possible, especially in the Peaks.

Restoring The Line To High Wycombe

From the images in this post, I think it would be unlikely that the line to High Wycombe would ever be restored.

It would probably need a level crossing and I doubt Network Rail or the locals would like that idea.

I think that the increased frequency of trains between Bourne End and Maidenhead would need a passing loop.


It has been planned to electrify Bourne End station and the Marlow Branch Line.

As I said in Is It Bi-Modes And Battery Trains To The Rescue?, nothing has been said by the Rail Minister about any plans for the electrification of the Marlow Branch.

But I did take these pictures at Maidenhead station today.

Why would the platform for the Marlow Branch and the first couple of hundred metres of the branch be electrified?

Especially, as there appeared to be no sign of work on the rest of the line between Maindenhead and Bourne End!

Given what I saw and wrote about increased frequencies, I think there are four possibilities.

  1. The Marlow Branch continues to be run as now..
  2. It receives traditional electrification later.
  3. The line is electrified just enough to charge trains with an IPEMU-capability or batteries.
  4. It has something to do with reversing Crossrail trains.

Option 1 and 2 are possibilities, but Crossrail are reversing trains to the West of the station.

It would also appear that sufficient work is being done for option 3.


  • There appears to be no work going on to lower the track in the numerous bridges.
  • The clearances, are enough for a battery-powered train or IPEMU, which would be those needed for a Class 165 train.
  • The line is only just over seven miles long, which would be within battery range.
  • The line has at least two level crossings, which can be difficult to electrify.
  • Putting overhead wiring on Bourne End Railway Bridge could rightly meet with objections.

Perhaps the best way to run the branch would be to run it almost as two separate services, as it is currently done in the Peak.

  • A newer two-car diesel, like say a Class 172 train, runs the shuttle between Marlow and Bourne End.
  • A four-car electric multiple unit with an IPEMU-capability, runs the Bourne End to Maidenhead service, under battery power charging at Maidenhead station, using the 200 metres or so of overhead wires.
  • The trains are timed to meet at Bourne End, where passengers change between the trains.
  • Certain Bourne End to Maidenhead trains could be extended to Paddington, as they are now in the Peak. I think they would take two hours for the round trip.
  • In some ways the biggest advantage is that the only new infrastructure, would be the electrification at Maidenhead station, that is currently in progress.

I feel it is all feasible.


On current timings, two tph is very feasible and three tph may be a possibility and a certainty in the Peak.

What benefits would passengers get from this level of service?

  • They get a turn-up-and-go service of at least two tph.
  • They get newer trains with more capacity.
  • Some of the trains would be electric-powered.

And the train operator?

  • They get newer trains with more capacity.
  • They would only need to allocate a small number of trains to provide the service.
  • They get an easy-to-deliver service.

Hopefully, the quality service would attract more passengers and generate profits.

Surely though, Network Rail are the biggest winner, as they would only need to get the infrastructure into tip-top condition, add a small amount of electrification and give it a thorough testing.

Will it happen?

I have no idea, but it certainly looks like something innovative is being assembled.

If whatever Network Rail and GWR are planning, should involve the use of IPEMUs or battery-powered trains and it proved to be a success, then it would open up the possibility of several branch and other lines receiving the same electrification by stealth.

  • Barking Riverside Extension
  • Didcot Parkway to Oxford
  • Felixstowe Branch
  • Greenford Branch
  • Henley Branch
  • Marshlink Line
  • Sudbury to Marks Tey and Colchester
  • Uckfield Branch
  • Windsor Branch

It is certainly easier to electrify a line using modified electric trains with batteries, built in a new clean and warm factory in Derby, rather than by traditional methods, which seem to be Network Rail’s money pit.







November 11, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] There is one other possibility, that fits with my observations at Maidenhead and the Marlow Branch, that I wrote about in Bourne End Station And Improving The Marlow Branch Line. […]

    Pingback by Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station « The Anonymous Widower | November 25, 2016 | Reply

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