Chatham Main Line

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Chatham Main Line
Type Commuter rail, Suburban rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Greater London
South East England
Termini London Victoria
Dover Priory
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Southeastern
Rolling stock Class 375 "Electrostar"
Class 395 "Javelin"
Class 465 "Networker"
Class 466 "Networker"
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 750 V DC third rail
Operating speed 145 km/h (90 mph)
Chatham Main Line
London Victoria London Underground
Grosvenor Road
Carriage Sidings
Grosvenor Bridge
River Thames
Battersea Park
Battersea Park Road
Brighton Main Line
South Western Main Line
to London Waterloo
all lines to Clapham Junction
South London Line
Factory Junction
Stewarts Lane TMD
Wandsworth Road London Overground
Clapham High Street London Overground
Brixton London Underground
Catford Loop Line
East Brixton
Thameslink line to
Blackfriars and the north
Herne Hill
Denmark Hill London Overground
Sutton and Mole Valley Lines
to Tulse Hill
Peckham Rye London Overground
West Dulwich
South London Line
to London Bridge or Whitechapel
Sydenham Hill
Sydenham (Hill) or Penge Tunnel
2,141 yards (1,958 m)
Nunhead to Lewisham link
to Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace and
South London Junction Rwy
Brighton Main Line
(London Bridge branch)
Penge East
Crofton Park
Kent House
Crystal Palace Line
Hayes Line
to London Bridge and
other London Terminals
Limited service curve
Beckenham Junction Tramlink
Beckenham Hill
Catford Loop Line
Shortlands Junction
Bromley South
to London Bridge and
other London Terminals
Chislehurst Junction
South Eastern Main Line
to Orpington
and Tonbridge
St Mary Cray
River Cray
Swanley Junction
Maidstone Line
M25 motorway
Farningham Road
River Darent
Fawkham Junction
to High Speed 1 and
former Gravesend West Branch
Sole Street
High Speed 1
M2 motorway
North Kent Line
towards London
Medway Valley Line
to Maidstone
Rochester Bridge (LCDR)
Rochester Bridge
River Medway
Goods station
Rochester (new)
Rochester Common
Rochester (original)
Chatham Central
Fort Pitt Tunnel
428 yards (391 m)
Chatham Tunnel
297 yards (272 m)
Gillingham Tunnel
897 yards (820 m)
Gillingham Depot
to Chatham Dockyard
Sheerness Line
Dover branch
Ramsgate branch
Whitstable Town
Canterbury & Whitstable Rwy
Chestfield & Swalecliffe
Hampton pier
Herne Bay
RAF Manston
Margate Sands(SER)
Margate East
Ramsgate Harbour Tunnel
1,124 yards (1,028 m)
Ramsgate Harbour(LCDR)
Dumpton Park
Ramsgate Town(SER)
Ramsgate Depot
St Lawrence for Pegwell Bay
Ebbsfleet and Cliffsend Halt
Ashford to Ramsgate
(via Canterbury West) line
Canterbury East
Kent Coast Line
East Kent Railway
Shepherds Well
Shepherd's Well Tunnel
2,376 yards (2,173 m)
Stonehall and
Lydden Halt
Kent Coast Line
from Ramsgate
Buckland Junction
Charlton Tunnel
265 yards (242 m)
Priory Tunnel
158 yards (144 m)
Dover Priory
Dover Harbour Tunnel
684 yards (625 m)
Dover Harbour
Mileage Change
77 mi 76 ch (Victoria)
76 mi 50 ch (Charing Cross)
Hawkesbury Street Junction
Connection to Train ferry
Dover Town
Pier Junction
Archcliffe Junction
Admiralty Pier
South Eastern Main Line
Dover Marine

The Chatham Main Line is a railway line in England that links London Victoria[1] and Dover Priory / Ramsgate, travelling via Medway (of which the town of Chatham is part, hence the name).

Services to Cannon Street follow the route as far as St Mary Cray Junction where they diverge onto the South Eastern Main Line near Chislehurst.

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.

A shuttle service operates on the Sheerness Line which starts at Sittingbourne.

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 Station before crossing back over to the Southeastern Line to Victoria Station.

Since a major timetable change in December 2009, the typical Off-Peak services on this line are as follows.

A half-hourly service currently consist of either stopping or semi-fast trains, one travelling from Ramsgate and the other from Dover Priory where the two of the trains would then normally join together at Faversham. They will then stop at either Teynham or Newington on an alternating half-hourly service, and will include Sittingbourne in between these stations. Then Rainham (Kent), Gillingham (Kent), Chatham, Rochester, Meopham, Longfield, and Bromley South then non-stop to London Victoria.

An hourly stopping service starts from Gillingham (which used to be a half-hourly service from Faversham), stopping at Chatham, Rochester, Sole Street, Meopham, Longfield, Farningham Road, Swanley, St Mary Cray, Bromley South and London Victoria only. Stations prior to Farningham Road (as coming from London Victoria) are served by stoppers on the Swanley to Ashford (via Maidstone East) Line.

The introduction of the Class 395 Javelins, coinciding with the opening of a link to High Speed 1 in December 2009 has seen the addition of a half-hourly service departing from Faversham calling at Sittingbourne, Rainham, Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester. It then switches over to the North Kent Metro Line, calling at Strood and Gravesend, before then picking up a dedicated line to Ebbsfleet International, and then dropping onto High Speed 1, where it calls at Stratford International, and St Pancras International. There is no First Class service on this train, and between Faversham and Gravesend, this is treated as a classic service, which means you can travel with a standard (Non High Speed) ticket, but if you want to travel to any of the High Speed One Stations, you will have to pay a premium fare or purchase a supplemental ticket (Plus High Speed) either on the train heading towards St Pancras International, or from one of the High Speed Stations for the return leg of the journey. Train tickets which are valid for use across multiple networks (Not just Southeastern) are usually exempt from this premium fare, unless you are travelling within the London Area or the outskirts.

During the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the service was cut back to only one train per hour from Faversham to St Pancras International, due to additional Shuttle Trains running from St Pancras to Stratford International. All the London Termini were extremely busy during this time, with a queuing system in place at the very busiest stations.

There is a suburban (metro) service where the majority of this travels on a small part of this line. Departing from Victoria, it calls at Brixton, Herne Hill, West Dulwich, Sydenham Hill, Penge East, Kent House, Beckenham Junction (for the Croydon Tramlink), Shortlands, Bromley South, and Bickley. It then switches to the South Eastern Main Line at Chislehurst Junction where it calls at Petts Wood, terminating at Orpington. From here, you can pick up services towards Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and non-high speed services to Ashford International.

From 13th 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. The other service will 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. The High Speed Service will still run two trains per hour from St Pancras International to Faversham via Gravesend and Chatham. One service will still terminate, and then travel back to St Pancras International via Chatham and Gravesend. The other service will continue 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. The same will operate in the opposite direction. It is thought that this timetable will probably carry on until the Thameslink upgrade work at London Bridge is finished by 2018. By then there may be another major change to the timetable.

Altered Services due to emergency repairs[edit]

On 24th 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.
This means that there is a rail replacement service between Dover Priory and Folkestone West.
The High Speed Service via Chatham, Faversham, Ramsgate and Deal will now terminate at Ramsgate, with a shuttle service running between Ramsgate and Dover Priory via Deal.
A High Speed Service will start from Folkestone Central via Ashford International to St Pancras International.
Also, some services between Ashford International and Ramsgate may be diverted via Canterbury West, continuing to St Pancras International via Chatham and Gravesend instead of terminating at Margate.
It is not known how long this section of line will be shut, but it is thought it could now take up to a year to repair.
In the mean time, Southeastern have announced that the Car Park at Folkestone West will be free while this section of line is under repair, to encourage people from Deal and Dover to drive there to pick up the High Speed Service. Otherwise, people can catch a service from Dover Priory to London Victoria via Chatham or change here to catch a High Speed Service.

Rolling stock[edit]

The following trains are operated on the line : Class 395 "Javelin" since 2009, Class 375 "Electrostar" since 2001, Class 465 "Networker" since 1992 and Class 466 "Networker" since 1993.


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.[2] 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[2] and Swanley in January 1935.[2] Full outer suburban electrification was achieved with the "Maidstone & Gillingham Electrification" scheme in July 1939, extending electrification from Swanley to Gillingham.[2] 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.[2] 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 Resignalling Project[edit]

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 will mean the closure of the Signal Boxes at Rainham and Rochester, although Sittingbourne remains open as a relay signal box, controlled by Gillingham to control the Sheerness Branch Line.

On 13th 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, but after engineering works over Easter, platform 3 is operational, but can only be used as an 8-car bay platform, and although the Rochester Signal Box has been demolished, there is still a bit of work to turn it into a through platform.

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[edit]

  • 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.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Quail Map 5 – England South [pages 2–13] Sept 2002 (Retrieved 14 December 2011)
  2. ^ a b c d e "Electric Railways". 'Stendec Systems'. 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2007. 
  3. ^ Glover, John (2001). Southern Electric. Hersham: Ian Allan. p. 141. ISBN 0 7110 2807 9. 

External links[edit]