Medway Valley line

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Medway Valley line
The line being crossed by the Maidstone East line near Maidstone Barracks. There is no direct rail connection between them. Foot interchange between the two lines.
OwnerNetwork Rail
South East England
Paddock Wood
TypeSuburban rail, Heavy rail
SystemNational Rail
Route number01
Operator(s)SE Trains
Rolling stockClass 375 "Electrostar"
Class 395 "Javelin"
Line length21 miles 19 chains (34.18 km)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
ElectrificationThird rail, 750 V DC
Operating speed70 mph (110 km/h)
Route map
Medway Valley line.png
(Click to expand)

The Medway Valley line is the name given to the railway line linking Strood and the Medway Towns with Maidstone West and onward to Paddock Wood & Tonbridge. High Speed services also link between Maidstone West, Snodland, Strood and London St Pancras International (peak only). The section from Maidstone West to Tonbridge passes through some of Kent's most picturesque countryside along the narrower sections of the River Medway.


The line was built in two stages by the South Eastern Railway (SER). The first stage opened on 24 September 1844[1] and was a branch off the SER's first main line that crossed Kent between the coast ports of Dover and Folkestone and the LBSCR's main line at Redhill. According to a contemporary report in The Times newspaper, the opening of the branch line was an attempt to convey hops and fruit traffic back to Maidstone, which was losing trade to various points along the Dover line.[1] The junction was at Paddock Wood and followed the Medway Valley down to the county town of Maidstone that had been by-passed by the new main line. Twelve years later, on 18 June 1856 the extension of the line further down the Medway Valley was opened, to join the North Kent Line at Strood (which had opened in 1847). The extension was built by the railway contractor Edward Betts, who lived locally at Preston Hall and through whose estate the line partially passed. Betts arranged for his local station at Aylesford to be built in a much grander style than the other country stations along the line.

The SER started joint working with local rival London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) on 1 January 1899 under the name the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR).[2] Post World War One, the railways were "grouped" and the SECR became part of Southern Railway.

For a brief period in the 1990s some services were extended to Gillingham (Kent) via Rochester and Chatham. This involved reversing trains and switching tracks at Strood.

It was designated by the Department for Transport as a community rail service in September 2007.[3]


The line served many rail connected industries, Aveling and Porter just south of Strood, cement works in the Cuxton, Halling and Snodland areas, a newsprint at New Hythe, Lafarge between Aylesford and Maidstone Barracks, Lockmeadow sidings at Maidstone West, Tovil goods depot and sand pits at Beltring



The line is double track throughout, apart from a short single-track section on approach to Paddock Wood station, with a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). Between Paddock Wood and Tonbridge the maximum speed is 100 miles per hour (160 km/h).


The line serves the following stations: Strood, Cuxton, Halling, Snodland, New Hythe, Aylesford, Maidstone Barracks, Maidstone West, East Farleigh, Wateringbury, Yalding, Beltring, Paddock Wood and Tonbridge


During 2005, the signalling systems were upgraded, replacing the traditional semaphore signals with coloured light signals. Further modifications have since been made with the expansion of the North Kent Signalling Centre. The level crossing at Yalding has the only signal on the Southeastern network to display a flashing white light as the proceed aspect.


The line from Strood to Maidstone West was electrified (at 750 V DC third rail) by the Southern Railway, opening on 2 July 1939. The rest of the line from Paddock Wood to Maidstone West was electrified under Stage 2 of Kent Coast electrification by BR's 1955 Modernisation Plan, opening to traffic on 18 June 1962.

Train services[edit]

Services are operated by SE Trains.

Trains typically run a half-hourly service between Strood and Maidstone, with one train per hour carrying on through to either Paddock Wood or Tonbridge. There is no longer an early morning service to London Bridge. During 2020, trains terminated at Paddock Wood instead of Tonbridge, while the Maidstone West to Strood shuttle runs only during peak hours (1 in each direction during the morning peak and 6 during the afternoon/evening).

High-Speed introduction[edit]

On 18 March 2011, Southeastern announced the start of a new high-speed service from Maidstone to St Pancras International via Strood on a trial basis. During the morning rush hour, there are 2 trains from Maidstone West to St Pancras International, and 1 train heading in the opposite direction. In the evening rush hour, the services are reversed (2 trains to Maidstone West, and 1 trains to St Pancras International). Services in the opposite direction to the main flow do not call at Snodland and instead run non-stop from Maidstone West to Strood.

A trial service commenced on 23 May 2011[4] and comes as a result of changes on the North Kent line to improve punctuality of existing services. This service has since been made permanent.

Traction and rolling stock[edit]

The main rolling stock used on the line is 3 car Class 375/3 Electrostars.[5]

Class 395 Javelins serve the line during Monday to Friday peak hours with high speed services from St. Pancras International to Maidstone West, with Snodland the only intermediate station it serves on the line.[6]

Class Image Type Cars per set Top speed Number Operator Notes Built
mph km/h
Class 395 Javelin Unit 395008 at Ebbsfleet International.JPG EMU 6 140 (HS1) 100 (Mainline) 225 (HS1) 160 (Mainline) 29 SE Trains Peak time high speed services between Maidstone West and St.Pancras International 2007–2009
Class 375 375908 at London Bridge.jpg 3 or 4 100 160 140 All services on the Medway Valley line are usually operated by 375/3s but 375/6/7/8/9s may occasionally appear. 1999–2005


A variety of freight and other services frequent the line, including , as well as through traffic from Hoo Junction and Tonbridge yard.[citation needed]

Aggregates traffic also features, with destinations including Allington and Aylesford aggregates sidings.[citation needed]

Class Image Type
Class 59 59001 'Yeoman Endeavour' at Doncaster Works.JPG Diesel Electric
Class 66 66598, Chesterfield (4288474539).jpg Diesel Electric
Class 73 Highlander sleeper diverted to Oban - February 2016 (5) (geograph 4833956).jpg Electro-Diesel
MPV SwRS100279.JPG


  1. ^ a b "Opening Of The Maidstone Branch Railway". The Times. 25 September 1844. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  2. ^ Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British railway companies. Wellingborough: Stephens. ISBN 1-85260-049-7. OCLC 19514063.
  3. ^ "North West Rail passengers set for bigger say". GOV.UK. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Cheeseman, Clive (18 June 2009). "NETWORK RAIL - KENT ROUTE UTILISATION STRATEGY - DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION (SUMMARY)". Maidstone Borough Council. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Medway Valley Line". Kent Community Rail Partnership. Retrieved 15 June 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • R.V.J. Butt (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1
  • John Glover (2001). Southern Electric. Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-2807-9

External links[edit]