Chatham Main Line
|Chatham Main Line|
|Type||Commuter rail, Suburban rail|
South East England
|Rolling stock||Class 375 "Electrostar"
Class 395 "Javelin"
Class 465 "Networker"
Class 466 "Networker"
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||750 V DC third rail|
|Operating speed||145 km/h (90 mph)|
Services to Charing Cross as well as some slow Cannon Street services run in parallel from Gillingham to Rochester, diverging once across the River Medway at Rochester Bridge Junction onto the North Kent Line via Gravesend and Dartford.
Heading away from Victoria, between Farningham Road and Longfield Stations, the line which was used by Eurostar trains running from Waterloo International towards Fawkham Junction to pick up High Speed 1 still exists but is no longer used. This line is reserved for emergency use only by Class 395 Javelins travelling to/from Ashford International. As the Eurostar trains have had their 750 V shoes removed, they can no longer use this line.
Most services on the Line are run by Southeastern, part of Govia Group, which also operate the Southern and the London Midland franchises. Govia Thameslink Railway run a Thameslink service, starting from London Blackfriars and travelling via Denmark Hill on the Catford Loop, joining at Shortlands Junction. It then travels to Swanley before heading to Sevenoaks. Southeastern used to run this service.
While travelling between Bromley South and London Victoria, the trains can either travel on the main line, through Beckenham Junction, Herne Hill and Brixton, or can be divert via the Catford Loop Line, coming away from the main line at Shortlands Junction, travelling through Catford and Peckham Rye, and then just past Brixton it either picks up the Southeastern line all the way, or can follow the Southern (Atlantic) Line through Clapham High Street before crossing back over to the Southeastern Line to London Victoria. Some services travelling via Catford may stop at Denmark Hill.
From 13 December 2015, the off-peak timetable consists of two trains per hour from Victoria, calling at Bromley South, Longfield, Meopham, Rochester, Chatham, and Rainham. One service will call at Newington, Sittingbourne, Teynham and Faversham, then all stations to Dover Priory via Canterbury East. The other service will only call at Sittingbourne and Faversham then all stations to Margate and Ramsgate. These trains will no longer split or join up at Faversham. The hourly stopping service from Victoria now goes as far as Dover Priory, calling at Denmark Hill, Bromley South, St Mary Cray then all stations to Gillingham. It then becomes a semi-fast service, calling at Rainham, Sittingbourne, Faversham, Canterbury East and Dover Priory. A High Speed Service sees two trains per hour from St Pancras International to Faversham via Gravesend and Chatham. One service terminates at Faversham before travelling back to St Pancras International via Chatham and Gravesend. The other service continues coastbound as a semi-fast service calling at Whitstable, Herne Bay, Birchington, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. It will then carry on, stopping at Sandwich, Deal, Walmer, Martin Mill, Dover Priory, Folkestone Central, Folkestone West and Ashford International, before picking up the High Speed Line to Ebbsfleet International, Stratford International and arriving back at St Pancras International. A service operates in the opposite direction. There is one other High Speed Service that runs on a small part of the line, starting from Margate and calling at Broadstairs and Ramsgate before heading to Canterbury West, and Ashford International, then picking up the High Speed Line and calling at the remaining stations to St Pancras International.
Altered Services due to emergency repairs
On 24 December 2015, engineers carrying out a survey of the railway line running between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central discovered that a section of sea wall carrying the line has eroded away, and suspended the service immediately. During this time, a replacement bus service operated between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central.
It was thought it would take a year to repair, but after just over 8 months, this section of line reopened on 5 September 2016, more than 3 months earlier than expected so normal services have resumed.
The line was built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, who were in competition with the South Eastern Railway (hence the duplication of stations in Kent). They subsequently built lines to Sevenoaks and Ashford (via Maidstone) from the Chatham Main Line.
The line was electrified (750 V DC third rail) in a series of stages. Initially the new Southern Railway electrified the urban (within London) workings of the SECR in the 1920s. In July 1925 "South Eastern Electrification (Stage 1)" saw the line from Victoria to junction with the South Eastern Main line at Bickley, including the Catford Loop Line electrified. This was extend to outer suburban workings to Sevenoaks via Swanley (Bickley junction to Swanley) in two stages, reaching St Mary Cray in May 1934 and Swanley in January 1935. Full outer suburban electrification was achieved with the "Maidstone & Gillingham Electrification" scheme in July 1939, extending electrification from Swanley to Gillingham. Post war, under the BR's 1955 Modernisation plan, electrification was completed (Gillingham to Ramsgate and Dover) under "Kent Coast Electrification" stage 1 in 1959. At the same time the four track section between Shortlands and St Mary Cray junction was extended to Swanley Junction with a complete rebuilding of the St Mary Cray Junction. Two passing loops were added (to create a four-track section) between Rainham and Newington.
A short branch was built during World War One to service the construction of RAF Manston with a junction off the up line at Birchington on Sea.
East Kent Re-signalling Project
The idea of this project is for control of East Kent from Longfield to Ramsgate and just short of Dover Priory to be under the control of the East Kent Signalling Centre (EKSC) based at Gillingham.
Phase 1 of the project was carried out over the Christmas and New Year period of 2011, which involved the complete re-signalling from just East of Sittingbourne to Faversham, then on to Minster Junction and Buckland Junction, just short of Dover Priory. The old signal boxes were then abolished at Faversham, Margate, Ramsgate, Canterbury East and Shepherdswell. Phase 2 involved the re-signalling of the line between Sittingbourne to Longfield and Strood, including the Sheerness Branch Line and the Medway Valley Line to operate from the East Kent Signalling Centre at Gillingham, which is now operational. This means that the Signal Boxes at Rainham and Rochester have now closed, although Sittingbourne remains open as a relay signal box for the Sheerness Branch Line, controlled from Gillingham.
On 13 December 2015, a new £26m Rochester station on Corporation Street opened 500m west of the original station which it replaced. This station has 3 platforms and can accommodate 12-car trains instead of the 10-cars maximum length at the original station. Some 12-car Peak Time Trains are additionally stopping here. At the time, only platforms 1 and 2 were operational. From Easter 2016, Platform 3 was only a Bay Platform with a maximum length of 8-cars, but since 10 October 2016, Platform 3 became a though platform with services either able to head towards the Kent Coast or terminating here before head back up towards London. At the East End of the platform, a third line now runs all the way up to the old Rochester Station passing through what was Platform 4 before rejoining the Down Main towards Chatham. This can also enable long freight trains to be held here, allowing passenger services to pass, therefore removing a potential bottleneck.
Rainham has a new bay platform off the up-line, which can accommodate a 12-car train, labelled Platform 0. It is now being used as a Terminus for a couple of evening rush hour trains.
Strood has also been lengthened to accommodate 12-car trains.
Accidents and incidents
- On 10 September 1963, a freight train became divided and was derailed between Farningham Road and Longfield due to defects in a wagon. The line was closed until 13 September.
Car parking at Chatham railway station, the Maidstone Road bridge and the portal to the Chatham Tunnel
A 1908 Railway Clearing House map of Chatham Main Line and surrounding lines between Beckenham Jct and Herne Hill
A 1908 Railway Clearing House map showing the two different routes of the Chatham Main Line in South London.
A 1908 Railway Clearing House map of the end of the Dover branch of the Chatham Main Line.
A 1912 Railway Clearing House map of the line's final approaches to Victoria.
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