The Anonymous Widower

Southampton – A City Built For Cars

These pictures show Southampton as I walked between Southampton Central station and the Town Quay for the ferry to Hythe.

The last few pictures are when I walked back.

This Google Map shows the layout of Southampton

Note how the city sits between the two rivers; the Itchen in the East and the Test going to the West.

Crossing the Itchen is a modern Itchen Bridge, which was built in 1977, that takes the A3025 into and out of the City.

, To the East of the bridge two stations; Woolston and Sholing on the West Coastway Line can be seen.

From Woolston station, the West Coastway Line, curves Northwards and follows the East bank of the River Itchen through Bitterne station, which can be picked out at the top of the map, East of the River Itchen.

The West Coastway Line then joins the South Western Main Line at St. Denys station.

This Google Map shows Bitterne and St. Denys stations.

After going along the river for a short distance and passing Northam Depot, the line splits, as this Google Map shows.

One branch goes South past St. Mary’s stadium and the other turns West and takes Southampton Tunnel to Southampton Central station.

I wrote about the upgrading of Southampton Tunnel in Boxing Clever, where I said this about how the project was performed.

I particularly liked the way that the 1847 Southampton Tunnel  was made larger. Rather than use the traditional approach and closing the tunnel for two to three months, as they did when they upgraded Ipswich Tunnel, they did it a track at a time closing for only three weekends and over Christmas 2009, saving a year on the project.

It is my belief that we can save a lot of money on infrastructure projects, like roads, railways, hospitals ands schools by thinking things through with a great deal more innovation, enterprise and by borrowing good and proven ideas and methods from other countries and industries.

The Wikipedia entry for Southampton Tunnel, has a section called Tunnel Development, which says this about those works.

During the period Sunday 27 December 2009 to Sunday 3 January 2010, the tunnel closed for the track to be lowered to achieve W10 (freight container) route clearance. Previously, Hi Cube intermodal container traffic had to be carried on special low wagons with areas which could not be loaded, resulting in both traffic planning issues and lower train capacity. Additionally, all container trains were restricted to 20 mph when passing through the tunnel because of the limited clearances at the top edges of the loaded containers. Since rebuilding no speed or loading restrictions apply to the tunnel and container trains can travel at up to the line speed of 40 mph, the limit for the tunnel. The work meant containers could be transported more easily by rail from the Port of Southampton.

In some ways the Southampton Tunnel sums up the problems with the UK’s railways. The Victorian layout doesn’t really support the needs of modern transport. And especially freight transport!

The railways will have to live with the updated Southampton Tunnel, as I doubt there is an alternative route to get intermodal container traffic between Southampton Container Terminal and the rest of the UK.

I will finish my East-West journey across Southampton by showing this Google Map, which shows Southampton Central station and the Docks that lie to its West.

Note Millbrook station to the North of the Docks. It doesn’t appear to be a very busy station.

I shall now return to the Itchen Bridge along the Waterfront.

Note the following can be seen on this map.

  • The Itchen Bridge
  • St. Mary’s Stadium
  • Southampton Central station.
  • Red Funnel Ferries on Town Quay
  • The Ocean Terminal.
  • The West Quay Shopping Centre

There are also vast areas of surface car parks.

A Metro For Southampton

Southampton is a city, where I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on access to the City by car.

But the skeleton of an urban railway is still there, as this map of the railway lines through Southampton shows.

To be fair, the chance may have been missed when the Itchen Bridge was built in 1977. I suspect that at that time in Germany for example, the bridge would have been future proofed for trams to be added at a later date.

But the thoughts at the time in the UK, were that trams were of the Past and not of the Present.

This Google Map, which shows the Itchen Bridge, with St. Mary’s Stadium on the West Bank and Woolston station on the East.

If you look at this map carefully, the rail corridor to the old Southampton Terminus station is still there and about two hundred metres North of the station, a train in South West trains livery can be seen. The line is obviously used for some purpose by Northam Depot.

If I look at various rail systems, I’ve seen all over the UK, it would appear that the following could be done.

Reopen The Rail Line To Southampton Terminus

The line from St. Denys station to Southampton Terminus station could be reopened with possible stations at Northam and St. Mary’s Stadium.

St. Denys is a four-platform station and it could act as a cross-platform interchange between services going to and from Southampton Terminus and Central.

Run West Coastway Services To Southampton Terminus And London Waterloo Services To Southampton Central


  • The South Western Main Line is at capacity with freight and passenger services.
  • The West Coastway Line is less busy.

So why not run West Coastway services to Southampton Terminus?

Remodel St. Denys Station

St. Denys is a four-platform station and it could act as a efficient cross-platform interchange .

  • Platform 1 – Services from Southampton Central to London
  • Platform 2 – Services to Southampton Central
  • Platform 3 – All services between the West Coastway and Southampton Terminus


  1. By making Platform 3 bi-directional, this means that trains using the West Coastway Line don’t have to cross the main line if they terminate at Southampton Terminus.
  2. Travellers going West would just walk across the platform, whereas those going East would use the bridge.
  3. Provision would be made to allow services to go between the West Coastway Line and Southampton Central.
  4. Provision would be made to allow trains to access Northam Depot.

There is probably a better layout, but by careful design and the opening up of Southampton Terminus, Southampton would be given extra capacity.

A Cross-City Tram

Every time, I’ve gone to Soiuthampton, I’ve always seemed to walk halfway across the City.

Looking at the map, there must be scope for a tram route.

This article in the Romsey Advertiser is entitled Plans for multi-million pound tram project in Romsey are being investigated.

This is said about the route.

Phase one of the “Solent Metro” network would see trams run from Eastleigh past the airport, down to a new station at Southampton St Mary’s, on to an interchange at Royal Pier, then back up to Westquay and Southampton Central railway station.

The plan also envisages the network – which could be trams or a light railway – being extended west to Romsey and from there back to Eastleigh, and eastwards to Segensworth.

Southampton certainly needs something that connects the Waterfront to the West Quay Shopping Centre and Central station, hopefully with a good connection to St. Mary’s Stadium.


My preference would be for a tram-train system, where tram-trains started at places like Bournemouth, Eastleigh, Fareham, Fawley, Lymington, Portsmouth and Romsey as trains and then went walkabout as trams in the City Centre.

At the East, the tram trains would change mode in the vicinity of the old Southampton Terminus station and proceed to St. Mary’s and St. Denys stations as third-rail electrified trains

This Google Map shows the old Southampton Terminus station, which is now a casino.

The rail line goes North to St. Mary’s Stadium, Northam Depot and St. Denys station. To the South it goes as far as the Waterfront, where it finishes just to the East of the Ocean Terminal.

In the West they would need to join the South Western Main Line in the area of Southampton Central station.

The Google Map shows the area.

I’m sure that a more than adequate connection could be arranged after what I have seen in places like Karlsruhe.

There would of course be only one way for the the tram-trains to cross between Southampton Terminal and Southampton Central stations and that would be on battery power. I’m certain if Birmingham  do it across a City with much more of a gradient, as they intend, then Southampton could do it across the Waterfront.

Serving The Cruise Ships

The plan from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership detailed in the Romsey Advertiser mentions running the trams or light rail service to the Royal Pier, where they would reverse.

This Google Map shows the Ocean Terminal, with a handy cruise ship alongside.

Note how the rail line that runs down behind St. Mary’s stadium continues to the dockside, just to the East of the Ocean Terminal.

If tram-trains were working the routes around Southampton, they could all terminate by the Ocean Terminal and thus give cruise passengers access to tourist attractions like Bournemouth, The New Forest and Portsmouth, in addition to the whole of Southampton City Centre.

I’m sure those clever engineers from Stadler can come up with a third-rail version of a Class 399 tram-train, that had enough battery power to traverse across Southampton. Especially, if a charge station like a Railbaar was installed at the Ocean Terminal to charge waiting tram-trains.


The possibilities at Southampton to improve public transport in the City are endless.









April 12, 2017 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] In Southampton – A City Built For Cars, I describe how if they built their proposed Solent Metro around third-rail tram-train technology, they could transform the city. […]

    Pingback by The Third-Rail Tram-Train « The Anonymous Widower | April 16, 2017 | Reply

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