Shenfield–Southend line

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Shenfield–Southend line
Southend Victoria railway station.JPG
Southend Victoria is the eastern terminus of the line
OwnerNetwork Rail
Southend Victoria
TypeCommuter rail
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)Greater Anglia
Rolling stockClass 321
Class 720
Line length22 miles 26 chains (35.9 km)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz AC OHLE
Operating speed90 mph (140 km/h)
Route map
Shenfield–Southend line.png
(Click to expand)
Shenfield–Southend line
miles-chains from Liverpool Street
20-16 Shenfield Crossrail
Shenfield Jct
24-44 Billericay
29-02 Wickford
33-09 Rayleigh
36-01 Hockley
38-54 Rochford
39-44 Southend Airport London Southend Airport
40-67 Prittlewell
41-42 Southend Victoria

The Shenfield–Southend line is a branch line off the Great Eastern Main Line in Essex, in the east of England. It links Shenfield in the west to Southend Victoria, in Southend-on-Sea, in the east. The vast majority of services connect to or from the Great Eastern Main Line and its London terminus at Liverpool Street.

The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.05, and is classified as a London and South East commuter line.[1] Passenger services on the line are currently operated by Greater Anglia.


The line, as well as the Crouch Valley line which branches off it at Wickford, was opened in 1888–89, and represented the largest railway building project in Essex undertaken by the Great Eastern Railway (GER). The 15 stations on these "New Essex" lines were the epitome of the "Domestic Revival" style, pioneered on the GER by the company's architect, W. N. Ashbee, which came to be known as the New Essex or Ashbee style. The stations on the Shenfield–Southend line are largely in their original form, including the platform canopies.[2][3]

Throughout its history, the line has had three different systems of electrification, all of which have used overhead lines to carry the electric current. The first system, commissioned in 1956, used 1500 V DC,[4][5] following the commissioning of the main line from London to Shenfield in 1949.[6] That replaced an intensive steam service. In the 1960s, the electric supply was converted to 6.25 kV, 50 Hz AC, as part of the decision by the British Transport Commission to adopt 25 kV 50 Hz AC electrification as the standard system, rather than 1500 V DC. The line was not immediately converted to 25 kV AC due to problems with clearances under bridges. In 1979, the supply was converted to 25 kV AC, following more research into the permissible clearances between the overhead wires and other structures.[7] Between 2017 and 2020 the overhead line equipment (OHLE) was renewed with an auto-tensioning system. The former 3-wire compound catenary was replaced with a simple 2-wire catenary with new and reused structural steel-work and new wire supports, insulators and registration arms.[8]


The line diverges from the Great Eastern Main Line at Shenfield and is double track throughout. It is 22 miles 26 chains (35.9 km) in length.

It is electrified at 25 kV, has a loading gauge of W6 and a maximum line speed of 80 mph, increasing to 90 mph where it joins the Great Eastern Main Line.[1]

The line is signalled for bidirectional working; there are crossovers at Mountnessing junction, Billericay, Wickford and Hockley.


The following table summarises the line's nine stations, their distance measured from London Liverpool Street and estimated number of passenger entries/exits in 2018/19:

Station Location Local authority Mileage Patronage
Shenfield Shenfield Borough of Brentwood 20¼ 4,149,488
Billericay Billericay Borough of Basildon 24¼ 3,043,344
Wickford Wickford Borough of Basildon 29 2,261,210
Rayleigh Rayleigh District of Rochford 33 1,832,722
Hockley Hockley District of Rochford 36 724,288
Rochford Rochford District of Rochford 38½ 615,582
Southend Airport Southend Airport District of Rochford 39½ 611,256
Prittlewell Prittlewell Borough of Southend-on-Sea 40¾ 220,626
Southend Victoria Southend-on-Sea Borough of Southend-on-Sea 41½ 2,129,590


All the stations and services on the line are currently operated by Greater Anglia. The company took over from National Express East Anglia in 2012, which in turn had replaced the previous operator First Great Eastern in 2004, when all the operators in East Anglia were merged into one new franchise. First Great Eastern (owned by FirstGroup) had operated the Great Eastern franchise from January 1997 until March 2004.

The majority of services run between Southend Victoria and London Liverpool Street, although a limited service operates only between Shenfield and Southend Victoria. Trains are typically formed of Class 321 or Class 720 units. A typical journey along the length of the line takes 35 minutes.


  1. ^ a b "Route 7 – Great Eastern" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Kay, Peter (2006). Essex Railway Heritage. Wivenhoe UK: Peter Kay. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-899890-40-8.
  3. ^ Trimley Station Community Trust: History, accessed 31 August 2015
  4. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (February 1957). "Electric Trains to Southend". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 103 no. 670. Westminster: Tothill Press. p. 73.
  5. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (February 1957). "Electrification to Southend Victoria". Notes and News. The Railway Magazine. Vol. 103 no. 670. Westminster: Tothill Press. pp. 136–7.
  6. ^ Fiennes, Gerard (1967). I Tried to Run a Railway. Shepperton, England: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0447-1. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Glover, John (2003). Eastern Electric. Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-2934-2.
  8. ^ "Anglia OLE Renewals". Network Rail. Retrieved 9 October 2019.

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