East Coastway line

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East Coastway line
19.05.10 Eastbourne 377.440 (6808661625).jpg
A Southern Class 377 stands at Eastbourne in 2010
OwnerNetwork Rail
LocaleEast Sussex,
South East England
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
Depot(s)Brighton – Lovers Walk
St Leonards
Rolling stockClass 171 "Turbostar"
Class 375 "Electrostar"
Class 377 "Electrostar"
Number of trackstwo
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC Third rail
Operating speed90 mph (145 km/h) maximum
Route map
East Coastway line.png
(Click to expand)

The East Coastway line is a railway line along the south coast of Sussex to the east of Brighton, England. Trains to the west of Brighton operate on the West Coastway line. Together with the West Coastway and the Marshlink line to the east, the line forms part of a continuous route from Havant to Ashford. The Brighton Main Line route to Eastbourne and Hastings, via Plumpton and Cooksbridge, shares the East Coastway line east of Lewes station.

The train operating company Southern refers to the routes on this line as "East Coastway" or "Coastway East". The trains running under the East Coastway name serve stations between Brighton, Lewes, Eastbourne, Hastings, Ore and Ashford, together with the branch line to Seaford. A closed branch to Kemptown, Brighton diverged just east of London Road Station.


Brighton to Lewes (East Branch)[edit]

From Brighton, trains using the East Coastway line use mostly the eastern platforms, travel along the Brighton Main Line before turning east over the 28 arch London Road viaduct giving views of the housing in Preston and Withdean in the north and the city to the south, before heading into a cutting where London Road (Brighton) is situated. The line climbs on a 1 in 258 gradient, through the first tunnel, Ditchling Road Tunnel, 63 yd (58m) in length. Shortly afterwards lay the junction for the Kemp Town branch, closed in 1971. Continuing the climb the route passes Moulsecoomb, opened 12 May 1980. Crossing Hodshrove Viaduct the gradient starts to increase to 1 in 99 reaching Falmer on a 1 in 93 gradient, then levelling out in Falmer Tunnel, 490yd (441m). The route now descends towards Lewes though the South Downs along a 1 in 88 gradient for around 4 miles, through the site of the former Lewes Priory, then levelling out at Lewes.

Keymer Junction to Lewes[edit]

Leaving the Brighton Main Line at Keymer Junction, just south of Wivelsfield, the route turns south west passing through the northern edge of Burgess Hill and gently descending to Plumpton. The line speed along this section of the line reaches 90 mph still descending towards Cooksbridge slowing to 70 mph and passing Hamsey level crossing and turning south to run near the River Ouse and entering Lewes Tunnel, 395 yards and into Lewes.

Lewes to Eastbourne[edit]

Lewes has been the junction for other routes, two branch lines to the north: one for Eridge via Uckfield; the other to East Grinstead and beyond. Both leaving Lewes via the Wealden Line, splitting at Culver Junction. Leaving Lewes, the main line and the east branch converge and then sweep around a long curve over the River Ouse and under the A27 road to Southerham Junction for the Newhaven & Seaford branch. At one time, to the north side of the line lay interchange sidings for the then near-by cement works.[1]

A mile further the route passes under the A27 road again at the base of Mount Caburn then passing Glynde which once had interchange sidings for two industrial branch lines; one to a clay pit and the other to a chalk pit. The line follows a near straight route to Berwick, then heading on a slight undulating gradient over the River Cuckmere and then downhill towards the current Polegate station the previous station, 330 yards west, was once a busy junction station with the former branch line to Eridge via Hailsham (Cuckoo Line) which closed in 1968. The East Coastway line then continued west towards Hastings avoiding Eastbourne and a branch line heading southwest for Eastbourne. The direct line to Hastings is now closed, and all trains run into Eastbourne and reverse to continue their journey. After a sharp bend the route follows a slight downhill gradient to Willingdon Junction, where the route to and from Hastings now runs. Shortly after is Hampden Park then over the flat Willingdon Levels to Eastbourne, a terminus station.

Eastbourne to St Leonards[edit]

From Eastbourne the route is reversed through Hampden Park to Willingdon Junction where the route turns [2] to the former Stone Cross Junction, where the route from Polegate once joined. Shortly after is the site of Stone Cross Halt, opened in 1905 and closed 1935. Then a slight gradient to Pevensey and Westham where the line now passes Pevensey Castle crosses the Pevensey Levels through the lesser served Pevensey Bay, opened in 1905 as a halt and is now only served at peak times. Passing the Beachlands estate on the south and a caravan site the line passes through Normans Bay; this station was originally opened as a halt and still maintains an hourly service. Continuing along the Pevensey Levels the line passes close to the beach before heading inland at Cooden Beach and Collington; this station was originally opened as a halt in 1905, being named in turn Collington Wood Halt, West Bexhill Halt and Collington Halt, before reaching Bexhill. The route next runs through a cutting to the site of Galley Hill sidings and then running along the coast past Bulverhythe and the depots of the Hastings Diesels and the Southeastern and going through the site of St Leonards (West Marina), closed 1967. The East Coastway line then ends shortly after at Bo-Peep Junction where the Hastings Line from Tonbridge continues through Bo-Peep Tunnel to St Leonards (Warrior Square) and through Hastings Tunnel to Hastings. Some trains from London and Brighton continue beyond Hastings to Ore where there is a turnaround siding, the old depot having been closed and re-developed. This is the end of the East Coastway route. The line heading east to Ashford is the Marshlink line.


Main line[edit]

The Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Railway (BLHR) was formed on 7 February 1844 and received Parliamentary approval for the construction of a line between Brighton and Lewes on 29 July 1844.[3] Work was started by September, engineered by John Urpeth Rastrick, with the route crossing a valley with the London Road viaduct then running through the South Downs to Falmer before descending to Lewes, with a station at Falmer.[4][5] This section opened on 8 June 1846. On 27 June that year a single line extension was opened to just outside Hastings at Bulverhythe with an intermediate station at Polegate to serve Eastbourne[5] (this section was later doubled in January 1849).

On 27 July 1846 the BLHR, along with other railways, merged to form the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.[6] In November 1846 the bridge over the River Asten was completed and Bulverhythe station was replaced with Hastings and St Leonards station, later renamed St Leonards West Marina station.[7][8]

For almost a year all services from London travelled via Brighton until a spur off the Brighton Main Line was constructed from Keymer Junction to Lewes and opened on 2 October 1847.[8] On 14 May 1849, two branches from Polegate opened, one southwards to Eastbourne and one northwards to Hailsham making Polegate an important junction.[5]

The first station at Lewes was a terminus at Friar's Walk. After the extension to Hastings opened, through trains from Brighton visited the station then reversed out before continuing east. When the line from Haymer Junction opened on 1 October 1847, a new set of makeshift and unroofed platforms opened near the junction to the station, known as the Pinwell platforms. These eliminated the need for reversing trains but were separate from Friars walk. A new junction station with four platform was constructed and opened on 1 November 1857, serving Brighton, London, Uckfield, Newhaven Eastbourne and Hastings. To accommodate more platforms and reduce the tight curves, the station was rebuilt and realigned, and reopened on 17 June 1889. The original route leading to the freight yards was retained.[9]

Another junction station on the line was at Polegate. In May 1849, two branch lines from Polegate were built, one southwards to Eastbourne and one north to Hailsham; both had left the station from the east which meant trains from Eastbourne had to reverse at Polegate. This was changed when the Cuckoo Line from Hailsham to Eridge was extended in 1880 and a new station was built 14 mile (400 m) east and had four through platforms, the line to Hailsham was re-routed from the west of the station which eliminated the need to reverse trains from Eastbourne towards Tunbridge Wells.

Eastbourne station was originally a timber building. It was rebuilt in 1866; the timber was reused to build a house at No. 1 Wharf Road.[10] The second station was redesigned in 1872 and then significantly rebuilt in 1886.[11] At its peak it had four platforms, a locomotive shed and an extensive goods yard. A branch line was also built just north of the station heading east to the town's gasworks and to the "Crumbles", an area of shingle which was once used for ballast on the railway line. The next station in the area was Hampden Park, built in 1888 as Willingdon, after the parish of Willingdon. The junction north of Hampden Park is called Willingdon Junction, where the route diverges either east or west.

A single line spur from Willingdon Junction to Stone Cross Junction was opened on 2 August 1871, forming a triangular junction between Polegate, Pevensey and Eastbourne and allowing direct trains to operate from Eastbourne to Hastings. This was doubled in 1862.

The remaining 14 mile (400 m) of line to Hastings were constructed by the South Eastern Railway in 1851 as a part of their line from Ashford to Hastings but the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway – obtained running powers over it.[12]

Kemp Town branch[edit]

A 1+34-mile-long (2.8 km) branch line from east of London Road station to Kemp Town opened on 2 August 1869. It was expensive to build and required a tunnel and a 14 arch viaduct across Lewes Road and Hartington Road. The line was primarily constructed to alleviate the LBSCR's fears of another company approaching Brighton from the east.[13] An intermediate station at Lewes Road opened on 1 September 1873.[14]

The branch temporarily closed to passengers on 1 January 1917. It reopened on 10 August 1919 but closed permanently on 1 January 1933. During the Second World War, the tunnel leading into Kemp Town was used as an air-raid shelter. The line continued to be used for goods traffic until 14 August 1971. The viaduct was demolished in 1976.[15]

Crumbles branch[edit]

This 3-mile (5 km) branch, constructed in 1862, led to a 34-mile-wide (1.2 km) shingle bank known locally as The Crumbles. The LB&SCR used the shingle as ballast for its railway lines.[16] Ballast trains ran until 1932 when the Southern Railway favoured granite. Other branches appeared on the line; a siding was built in 1870 when the Eastbourne Gas Company built their works which straddled the line. Coal was transported to the gasworks. In return it produced coke and was taken away[17] and in 1926 a line was created for the Eastbourne Corporation Electric Works to transport coal, also supplying fuel to the bus garage and taking scrap metal away from the refuse destructor works.[18] The branch saw its last steam engines in April 1960 and diesel shunting locomotives were provided for the work[19] until the line closed in early 1967.[18]

Motor trains[edit]

In 1905, the LB&SCR introduced motor trains and unmanned halts between Eastbourne and St Leonards West Marina and new halts were built at Stone Cross Halt, Pevensey Bay, Normans Bay, Cooden Beach, Collington and Glyne Gap Halt. All apart from Stone Cross (closed 1935)[20] and Glyne Gap (closed 1915)[21] remain open.


All the lines, as far as Ore (except the Kemp Town branch line), were electrified using the (750 V DC third rail) system by the Southern Railway, opening in May 1935.[22]

World War II[edit]

Because of the line's proximity to the East Sussex Coast it was the target of a number of bombing raids during the World War II. During a daylight air raid on 25 May 1943 a German bomber dropped five bombs that hit the upper goods yard north of Brighton station and part of the London Road viaduct carrying the East Coastway line, along with other damage the bombs demolished two arches of the viaduct and killed one railway employee. Temporary repairs to the viaduct were soon made and by the year's end the damaged brickwork was restored.[23]

In 1941, the locomotive shed at Eastbourne was severely damaged, being left virtually roofless, by numerous air raids.[24]

In March 1944 the station platforms at Eastbourne were badly damaged during a German air raid, ripping up track and bringing down platform canopies. In 1942, railway employees were killed during an ARP exercise.[25]



Diverted Southeastern (Govia) service at Eastbourne in April 2012

Passenger services are operated by Southern. Between Hastings and St Leonards West Marina the track is shared with Southeastern using their services on the Hastings Line and also shunting movements to the depot at St Leonards West Marina.

A typical Southern service along the route is:

  • Hourly, London Victoria – Eastbourne
  • Hourly, London Victoria – Ore via Eastbourne
  • Hourly, Eastbourne – Ashford International
  • Hourly, Brighton – Hastings via Eastbourne
  • Hourly, Brighton – Ore via Eastbourne
  • Half hourly, Brighton – Seaford
  • Half hourly, Brighton – Lewes

In circumstances when the Brighton Main Line has both running lines closed between Preston Park and Keymer Junction, some services between Brighton and London may be diverted via Lewes, with trains having to reverse at the end of the station.

A Southeastern service is typically a half hourly London Charing Cross–Hastings.


Pre 2015[edit]

The line was originally signalled by a mixture of semaphore signals and colour lights by several signal boxes over the years. Almost every station had a signal box, Lewes even had five signal boxes controlling the area including the goods yard. Polegate had three signal boxes and other signal boxes at Willingdon and Stone Cross junctions and at Pevensey Bay and Cooden Beach There were also crossing boxes at Ripe, between Glynde and Berwick, and at Wilmington, between Berwick and Polegate.

Before 2015, Three Bridges signalling centre controlled the route between Keymer Junction and Plumpton and Brighton to Falmer where Lewes Power Box takes over until Southerham Junction, from which absolute block signalling takes over through to Hastings. Signal boxes were situated at Berwick, Polegate Crossing, Hampden Park, Eastbourne, Pevensey and Westham, Bexhill and Bo-Peep Junction. There were two crossing boxes at Plumpton and Normans Bay.

2015 Re-signalling[edit]

In 2013 a project by Network Rail drew plans to upgrade the route between Lewes and St Leonards to replace the semaphore signals and signal boxes to colour light signals which will be controlled from a new Railway Operations Centre at Three Bridges. On Friday 13 February 2015, Berwick, Polegate, Hampden Park, Eastbourne, Pevensey and Westham, Normans Bay and Bexhill signal boxes signalled their last trains and over the weekend, the semaphore signals and current colour light signalling was replaced and new colour light signals installed and tested. The line reopened on Monday 16 February 2015 with Hampden Park Signal Box being demolished over the weekend. Bexhill, Eastbourne and Berwick signal boxes are listed buildings and were saved from demolition, and Polegate signal box was bought by the local town council to serve as a museum. Pevensey Signal box is due for demolition at a later date.


  • Eastbourne station rail crash – 25 August 1958; 5 killed, 40 injured.
  • Bo-Peep Junction accident – 23 June 1861; 10 injured[26]
  • Falmer station accident – 6 June 1851; 5 killed.[27]




  1. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, plates 72 & 73 plus map.
  2. ^ east
  3. ^ Turner 1977, p. 215.
  4. ^ Carder 1990, p. 144.
  5. ^ a b c Mitchell & Smith 1985, Historical Background.
  6. ^ McCarthy & McCarthy 2007, p. 34.
  7. ^ Butt 1995, p. 204.
  8. ^ a b Turner 1977, p. 223.
  9. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, Lewes.
  10. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, Fig. 104.
  11. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, Fig. 105.
  12. ^ Course 1973, pp. 109–110.
  13. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, The Kemp Town Branch: Fig. 24 and Historical Background.
  14. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, Fig. 26.
  15. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, The Kemp Town Branch: Historical Background.
  16. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1986, plate 27.
  17. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1986, plate 32.
  18. ^ a b Mitchell & Smith 1986, plate 29.
  19. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1986, plate 28.
  20. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1986, plate 54.
  21. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1986, plate 85.
  22. ^ Moody, G.T. (1968). Southern Electric 1909–1968. London: Ian Allan. pp. 57–8. ISBN 0-7110-0017-4.
  23. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, plates 13 to 16.
  24. ^ Hawkins, Chris; Reeve, George (1979). An Historical Survey of Southern Sheds. OPC. p. 27. ISBN 0-86093-020-3.
  25. ^ Mitchell & Smith 1985, plate 112.
  26. ^ "Accident at Bo Peep Junction on 23 June 1861". Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  27. ^ "Board of Trade – Railway department accident report, L.B&S.C.R., 16 June 1851" (PDF). Retrieved 5 October 2009.


External links[edit]