St Ives Bay Line

St Ives Bay Line
Type Community railway
Locale Cornwall
Termini St Erth
50°10′14″N 5°26′39″W / 50.1706°N 5.4443°W / 50.1706; -5.4443 (St Erth station)
St Ives
50°12′32″N 5°28′40″W / 50.2088°N 5.4777°W / 50.2088; -5.4777 (St Ives station)
Stations 5
Opened 1877
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Great Western Railway
Character Rural
Rolling stock Class 150 and Class 153
Line length 4.25 miles (6.84 km)
Number of tracks Single track throughout
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Old gauge 7 ft (2,134 mm) until May 20, 1892
Operating speed 30 mph (48 km/h)

The St Ives Bay Line is a 4.25 miles (6.84 km) railway line from St Erth to St Ives in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It was opened in 1877, the last new 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge passenger railway to be constructed in the country. Converted to standard gauge in 1892, it continues to operate as a community railway which carries a large number of tourists as well as local passengers.


St Ives circa 1890

The St Ives Junction Railway applied for an Act of Parliament in 1845, but as the West Cornwall Railway’s Bill failed in its application for an Act at the same time, the St Ives company withdrew its proposal.[1] A new Act was successfully applied for in 1873 to authorise a St Ives branch line as an extension of the West Cornwall Railway, although by that time this was controlled by the Great Western Railway. It was opened on 1 June 1877, the last new 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge passenger railway route to be built in Britain. A third rail was added to the southern section of the line in October 1888 to allow 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge goods trains to reach the wharf at Lelant. The last broad gauge train ran on Friday 20 May 1892; since the following Monday all trains have been standard gauge.[2]

Although there was heavy traffic in fish in the early years, this declined during the first half of the twentieth century.[3] Goods traffic was withdrawn from the intermediate stations at Lelant and Carbis Bay in May 1956 but continued at St Ives itself until September 1963.[1]

All the sidings were taken out of use at St Ives by 1966, by which time trains on the branch were operated by diesel multiple units. The line was proposed for closure in the Reshaping of British railways report which prompted it to be one of the lines featured in Flanders and Swann’s Slow Train,[4] but it was reprieved by Minister of Transport Barbara Castle. On 23 May 1971, the platform at St Ives was moved to make way for a car park[5] but seven years later, on 27 May 1978, a new station was opened at Lelant Saltings opened between St Erth and Lelant. This was given a large car park so that it could operate as a Park and Ride facility for St Ives.[1]


St Ives Bay Line

Cornish Main Line
to Penzance
0 St Erth
Cornish Main Line
to London

¾ Lelant Saltings

1 Lelant
Lelant Wharf
3 Carbis Bay
Carbis Bay Viaduct
St Ives Viaduct
St Ives
The communities served by the route are: St Erth Lelant Carbis Bay St Ives
Carbis Bay Viaduct

The branch line is single track for its whole length with no passing places.[6] It runs alongside the Hayle estuary and then the sea coast and is promoted as a good place to see birds from the train. It has also been listed as one of the most picturesque railways in England.

The line diverges from the Cornish Main Line at St Erth. After the line goes through a short cutting and underneath two road bridges which carry the A30 roundabout outside the station, the line follows the western side of the estuary past Lelant Saltings. Beyond Lelant railway station the line enters a cutting and climbs onto the sand dunes above Porth Kidney Sands on St Ives Bay,[7] with the church of St Uny and Lelant golf course on the left; the church’s cemetery was disturbed when the railway cut through the hill.[8] The South West Coast Path crosses the line here and then follows close by all the way to St Ives. The railway continues to climb up and onto the steep cliffs at Hawkes Point, about 30 metres (98 ft) above sea level. Soon after the line comes around the headland at Carrick Gladden and into Carbis Bay.[7] Perched on the hillside above the beach, this resort only developed after the railway arrived in 1877.[8] The line now crosses 78 yards (71 m) long Carbis Viaduct then continues on the cliff's edge until it emerges at Porthminster Point, from where it drops down across the 106 yards (97 m) St Ives Viaduct to reach St Ives railway station which is situated above Portminster Beach.[7]


A sign at St Erth station informing passengers about the short turnaround times for the St Ives shuttle services.

The line initially saw just five trains a day, but by 1909 this had grown to nine and in 1965 it was 17 with up to 24 on summer Saturdays. Some trains included through carriages from London Paddington station and in the 1950s the Cornish Riviera Express ran from St Ives through to Paddington on summer Saturdays.[1] The number of services continued to increase following the opening of Lelant Saltings and the summer of 2006 saw 26 daily services operated by Wessex Trains. Great Western Railway (train operating company) took over the operation later in the year and the winter timetable was reduced to 16 trains which caused some concern[9] but the summer of 2007 saw a return to the previous service level.[10]

As of August 2016, trains run at approximately 30-minute intervals in each direction for most of the day, including Sundays.[11]

In the summer months when traffic levels are high, most services are now operated by two-car Class 150 sets, but in the winter a single-car Class 153 is generally sufficient. On particularly busy days additional sets are added; St Ives can handle six carriages but the bay platform at St Erth is long enough for just five.[6] Two or three trains are extended to and from Penzance on most days to facilitate crew changes.[12]

Since the line has no passing loops and the average journey time along the full length of the line is just under 15 minutes, services on the line suffer from very short turnaround times (about 1 minute) at both St Erth and St Ives stations.[11]


The line is controlled from the signal box at St Erth; only one train is allowed to operate on the line at any time. Trains travelling towards St Ives are described as 'down trains' and those towards St Erth as 'up trains'. There are three public crossings on the line. 'Western Growers Crossing' is a crossing at St Erth which the signaller can see from the signal box. 'Towan Crossing' is a user-worked crossing north of Lelant, and there is a foot crossing at Hawke’s Point as the line approaches Carbis Bay.[6]

Community rail

The St Ives Bay Line is one of the railway lines supported by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, an organisation formed in 1991 to promote railway services in the area. The line is promoted by many means such as regular timetable and scenic line guides, as well as leaflets highlighting leisure opportunities such as walking, birdwatching, and visiting country pubs.

The special livery once carried by DMU 153329

The St Ives Bay Line rail ale trail was launched on 3 June 2005 to encourage rail travellers to visit pubs near the line. Of the 14 participating pubs, five are in St Ives,one in Lelant, two close to Lelant Saltings, one near St Erth and five in Penzance 6, 10 or 14 stamps collected in the Rail Ale Trail leaflet entitle the participant to claim special St Ives Bay Line Rail Trail souvenir merchandise.

Wessex Trains gave Class 153 single-car DMU number 153329 a special blue livery with large coloured pictures promoting the line and named it St Ives Bay Line, although this has now been removed by First Great Western who now operate the line.

The branch was designated as a community railway line in July 2005, being one of seven pilots for the Department for Transport's Community Rail Development Strategy. This aims to increase the number of passengers and reduce costs to make lightly used railways more economically sustainable. Among its aims are a higher-frequency of service, to introduce local tickets and ticket vending machines, and public art on the stations promoting the line as the artistic gateway to St Ives.[13]

Sterling Rail, a local action group, have proposed to take on the operation of the branch line and reintroduce steam trains. They also hope to place a dining car in the sidings at St Erth.[14]

Passenger volume

Despite figures showing just 251 passengers in the previous year, 150233 finds more than 60 people waiting at Lelant Saltings in 2009.

The Office of the Rail Regulator's statistics show that the number of passengers travelling on the St Ives line appears to have been declining in recent years. However, an increase in usage for the year beginning April 2010 has been the result of switching from counting ranger tickets to point-to-point tickets.[15]

The statistics cover twelve month periods that start in April.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to St Ives Bay Line.
  1. 1 2 3 4 Jenkins, Stanley C (1992). "the St Ives Branch". Great Western Railway Journal. Wild Swan Publications Ltd (Cornish Special Issue): 2–34.
  2. MacDermot, E T (1931). History of the Great Western Railway. 2 (1863–1921) (1 ed.). London: Great Western Railway. ISBN 0-7110-0411-0.
  3. Bennett, Alan (1990) [1988]. The Great Western Railway in West Cornwall (2 ed.). Cheltenham: Runpast Publishing. ISBN 1-870754-12-3.
  4. "Flanders & Swann Online". Slow Train. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  5. Cooke, R A (1977). Track Layout Diagrams of the GWR and BR WR: Section 10, West Cornwall. Harwell: R A Cooke.
  6. 1 2 3 Jacobs, Gerald (2005). Railway Track Diagrams Book 3: Western. Bradford-on-Avon: Trackmaps. ISBN 0-9549866-1-X.
  7. 1 2 3 Ordnance Survey (1996), Land’s End, Explorer map (1:25,000 scale) 102, Ordnance Survey, Southampton
  8. 1 2 Bray, Lena; Bray, Donald (1992) [1981]. St Ives Heritage (Second ed.). Devoran: Landfall Publications. ISBN 1-873443-06-4.
  9. BBC news report 9 March 2006
  10. "National Rail Timetable 144 (Summer 2007)" (PDF). Network Rail.
  11. 1 2 Train times and train timetables - Great Western Railway (Timetable W9, pdf)
  12. "National Rail Timetable 144 (Summer 2009)" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
  13. Department for Transport, Rail Group (2005), Route prospectus for the … St Ives Bay Line
  14. "Sterling Rail Link". Archived from the original on May 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  15. "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2012-04-16.

Further reading

Coordinates: 50°11′40″N 5°27′01″W / 50.1945°N 5.4502°W / 50.1945; -5.4502

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.