Page last updated: 19 February 2005.

The Sheepcote Lane curve - in its present incarnation - was (re-)constructed principally to provide empty Eurostar trains with a direct route between their North Pole (Old Oak Common) depot and Waterloo International station; it links Latchmere No 3 Jn and West London Jn and had been commissioned prior to its use by empty Eurostar trains for their unadvertised Eurostar demonstration ("shake down") service which began on 17 August 1994.

The curve has been used by scheduled passenger trains between the West London line and Waterloo main (not International) station from 24 October 1994 when Great Western began a Waterloo - Cardiff round trip (in advance of the public opening of Waterloo International, be it noted). Eurostar's own connecting Eurostar Link services - worked by diesel High Speed Trains (HSTs) - from Manchester and Edinburgh ran via the curve, into the main rather than International station at Waterloo, but were relatively short lived: from 29 May 1995 to 4 January 1997. Great Western (later First Great Western) Night Riviera (sleeper services) between London and the West Country were amended to use Waterloo instead of Paddington - using the curve - from 29 May 1995. These outlived all the daytime trains but reverted to Paddington from 27 September 1998, to be replaced by an early morning diesel multiple unit (d.m.u.) round trip. Its western extremities varied but it was usually at Waterloo between about 0400 and 0500 on Tuesday to Friday mornings and was operated - by Wales & West, Wales & Borders and finally Arriva Trains Wales - until the timetable change of 23 May 2004; the last such train ran round the curve on the morning of Friday 21 May 2004. There being no booked train on Saturdays, Sundays or Mondays, the service has to be classed as withdrawn either with effect from Tuesday 25 May or after last train running on Friday 21 May 2004 (take your pick!).

The proper line closure formalities had not been set in train in time, so to cover the obligation to maintain a "passenger service" while the Minister "considered" the proposal (which, perhaps needless to say, he eventually approved - see letter of 4 November 2004), a rail replacement taxi service operated on Tuesdays from 25 May to 7 December 2004 (inclusive) as follows:- Kensington Olympia dep 0345, London Waterloo arr 0413, dep 0505, Kensington Olympia arr 0535. Curiously, although the operator of the trains had been Arriva Trains Wales, Silverlink were charged with operating and arranging the withdrawal of this curious rail replacement service. Their website stated that the "road services will be withdrawn from 14 December 2004 (last day of operation 7 December 2004)"; they clearly favour the "with effect from" convention (while quoting the "last day" just to make sure!).

Between Latchmere No. 1 and No. 3 Jns a (notional) passenger service survived in the shape of Virgin CrossCountry's 0515 Saturdays only Gatwick Airport to Manchester train. This is a "parliamentary" relic of their erstwhile summer Saturday service to the Thanet coast, presumably to save going through the closure rigmarole for the line between Factory Jn and Latchmere Jn No. 1 and also to provide train crew with the opportunity to retain their route knowledge of the diversionary route via Herne Hill.

Richard Maund

An earlier version of this article also appeared in Railway & Canal Historical Society Railway Chronology Group Co-ordinating Newsletter no. 41, January 2005.

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