The Marshlink Line, shown with other railway lines in Kent.
South East England
|Opening||13 February 1851|
|Rolling stock||Class 171 "Turbostar"
Class 375 "Electrostar"
Class 377 "Electrostar"
|No. of tracks||1-2|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Marshlink Line is the name given to services on the railway line linking Ashford with Hastings in the South East of England. The line was part of an original proposal by a company named the Brighton Lewes and Hastings Railway to extend its coast route to Hastings. The South Eastern Railway eventually built the line, thereby renewing a local rivalry between itself and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) the line was opened on 13 February 1851. Recommended for closure by Dr. Beeching in 1963, the route has survived various attempts to axe services completely, and stations remained unmodernised and gas-lit well into the 1970s.
The line was single tracked between Appledore and Ore on 1 October 1979, leaving a passing loop at Rye. Linespeed was reduced from 85 mph to 60 mph, but there are additional long term speed restrictions in place, including 20 mph across an ungated level crossing at Winchelsea, and 40 mph between Doleham and Ore.
Ham Street, Appledore and Rye have staggered platforms: passengers cross the line from the end of one platform to the end of the other.
The line is not electrified, with the exception of Hastings to Ore. This small section was electrified to provide for carriage sidings (there was no space at Hastings) as part of the "East Coastway" electrification of July 1935.
The line has an active rail users group called "The Marsh Link Action Group".
Proposals have been made to upgrade and electrify the line to extend Southeastern high speed train services (which will operate from London via High Speed 1 to Ashford) onwards via the Marshlink to Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne, which if realised, could transform the line into an important through route.
Description of route
The stations on the route are listed below:
- Ashford International
- Ham Street: was Ham Street & Orlestone
- Appledore: the station's formal name includes (Kent) in its title, although Appledore (Devon) station closed in 1917
- Freight-only line diverges to serve Dungeness nuclear power station, operated by Direct Rail Services. The branch originally served both New Romney and Dungeness: there were stations at:
- all were closed to passengers on 6 March 1967
- At Appledore the double line becomes single track
- here there was, until 1962, the branch to Rye Harbour, opened in 1854
- Three Oaks
- Ore Tunnel [1,402 yards (1,282 m)] 
- here the line is doubled and electrified (originally for access to the carriage sidings at Ore but since removal of these sidings they are just used by service trains)
- Mount Pleasant Tunnel [230 yards (210 m)] 
Passenger services are operated by Southern, as part of its East Coastway services. The line is no longer a separate part of the network. Trains run hourly between Ashford and Brighton, stopping at Ham Street, Appledore and Rye on the Marshlink Line with an additional shuttle at peak times. Three Oaks and Winchelsea stations are served by a two-hourly service in each direction, while Doleham is served by just three or four trains a day. Ore has separate hourly trains to Brighton and London.
This line is one of the few in south-east England not to be electrified. Consequently, services are operated using Class 171 "Turbostar" DMUs. These replaced the elderly Class 205 and Class 207 units in mid-2004. When Class 171 units are not available a class 201 diesel-electric unit (1001) owned by Hastings Diesels Ltd stands in. This unit has been fitted with central door locking so it can continue running services.
- http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/StrategicBusinessPlan/RoutePlans/2010/Route%20A%20-%20Kent.pdf Network Rail Route Plan A 2010 Accessed 9 May 2012
- Marsh Link Action Group website Accessed 9 May 2012
- http://www.southernrailway.com/southern/news/essential-repair-work-to-ore-tunnel-in-january-important-information/ Southern Railway announcement, essential repair work to Ore tunnel in January Accessed 9 May 2012
- Kent Rail's page on Ore station Accessed 9 May 2012