Medway Valley line
|Medway Valley line|
Railways in Kent
|Type||Suburban rail, Heavy rail|
South East England
|Rolling stock||Class 375 "Electrostar"
Class 395 "Javelin"
Class 465 "Networker"
Class 466 "Networker"
|Line length||21 miles 19 chains (34.18 km)|
|Number of tracks||2|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||Third rail, 750 V DC|
|Operating speed||70 mph (110 km/h)|
|Medway Valley Line|
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 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 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. 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 merged with local rival London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) on 1 January 1899 to form the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR). Post World War One, the railways were "grouped" and the SECR became part of Southern Railway.
The line is double track throughout, apart from a short section on approach to Paddock Wood, with a maximum speed of 70 mph. Between Paddock Wood and Tonbridge the maximum speed is 100 mph.
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 colour light signals. Further modifications have since been made with the expansion of the North Kent Signalling Centre. At Yalding, however, exists the only signal on the Southeastern network to display a flashing white light as the proceed aspect at the ABCL level crossing.
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.
Services are operated by Southeastern.
Trains typically run a half-hourly service between Strood and Maidstone, with one train per hour carrying on through to Paddock Wood. There is no longer an early morning service to London Bridge. Since the December 2009 timetable change, some trains continue on to Tonbridge rather than terminate at Paddock Wood.
High Speed introduction
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 3 trains from Maidstone West to St Pancras International, and 1 train heading in the opposite direction. In the evening rush hour, the service is reversed (3 trains to Maidstone West, and 1 train to St Pancras International).
A trial service commenced on 23 May 2011 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
The Main Rolling stock used on the line is Class 375/3 Electrostars but the other variants of Class 375 may occasionally appear. Prior to the May 2012 Timetable changes Class 466 or Class 465 Networkers were used, these units still appear on the line when a 375 unit fails or is unavailable. As of January 2016, Class 466s have returned to the route due to the requirement of three car 375 rolling stock needed between Ramsgate and Dover Priory via Sandwich. This ia due to the closure of the line between Dover Priory and Folkestone.
From 23 May 2011, Class 395s became regular peak only visitors to the Medway Valley line, operating a peak high speed service between Maidstone West and St. Pancras International via Strood.
|Class||Image||Type||Cars per set||Top speed||Number||Operator||Notes||Built|
|Class 395 Javelin||EMU||6||140 (HS1) 100 (Mainline)||225 (HS1) 160 (Mainline)||29||Southeastern||Peak time high speed services between Maidstone West and St.Pancras International||2007–2009|
|Class 375||3 or 4||100||160||140||All services usually operated by 375/3s but 375/6/7/8/9s may occasionally appear.||1999–2005|
|Class 465 / 466||EMU||4 (465)
|Services usually operated by single Class 466, although during leaf-fall season or during periods of potential icing on the conductor rail, a pair of 466's or a single Class 465 may be used for resiliance||1992|
- "Opening Of The Maidstone Branch Railway". The Times Digital Archive. 25 September 1844. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- 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
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