Sunshine Coast Line

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Sunshine Coast Line is also a colloquial name referring to the Nambour and Gympie North railway line in Queensland, Australia.
Sunshine Coast Line
Type Commuter rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale East of England
Termini London Liverpool Street
Stations 12
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Abellio Greater Anglia
Depot(s) Clacton-on-Sea
Rolling stock British Rail Class 321
British Rail Class 360
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Sunshine Coast Line
(Colchester to Clacton/Walton)
GEML towards London
GEML towards Norwich
East Gate Junction
Colchester Town (closed Sundays)
Hythe (Essex) (closed Sundays)
Hythe level crossing Hythe Station Road
Alresford (Essex)
Alresford level crossing Station Road
Coach Road level crossing Coach Road
Thorington (closed 1957)
Frating level crossing Frating Abbey Farm Road
Great Bentley Brook
Great Bentley level crossing Plough Road
Great Bentley
Weeley (closed Sundays)
Kirby Cross
Frinton-on-Sea level crossing Station Road

The Sunshine Coast Line is the marketing name of what was The Tendring Hundred Railway Line, a railway line linking Colchester to Clacton-on-Sea and via a branch line to Walton-on-the-Naze. Passenger services are run by Abellio Greater Anglia. Trains to Clacton-on-Sea are usually trains from London, while those to Walton-on-the-Naze start at Colchester on weekdays and Saturdays, but at Thorpe-le-Soken on Sundays. There are however a few morning and evening peak through trains in each direction between Walton-on-the-Naze and London. The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.08 and is classified as a London & South East commuter line.[1]

On Sundays, Colchester Town, Hythe and Weeley are all closed. Therefore, the Sunday service consists of an hourly shuttle service between Thorpe-le-Soken and Walton-on-the-Naze, and an hourly service between Clacton-on-Sea and London Liverpool Street.

Off-peak services[edit]

Monday to Saturday[edit]

  • 1 train per hour between Clacton-on-Sea and London Liverpool Street
  • Calls at Thorpe-le-Soken, Wivenhoe, Colchester, Witham, Chelmsford, Shenfield, Stratford and London Liverpool Street
  • 1 train per hour between Walton-on-the-Naze and Colchester
  • Calls at Frinton-on-Sea, Kirby Cross, Thorpe-le-Soken, Weeley, Great Bentley, Alresford, Wivenhoe, Hythe, Colchester Town and Colchester.
  • 1 through train per hour between Colchester Town and London Liverpool Street
  • Calls at Colchester, Marks Tey, Kelvedon, Witham, Chelmsford, Shenfield, Romford, Stratford and London Liverpool Street.
  • 1 train per hour between Colchester Town and Colchester.
  • 1 train per hour between Colchester Town and Walton-on-the-naze
  • Calls at Hythe, Wivenhoe, Alresford, Great Bentley, Weeley, Thorpe le Soken, Kirby Cross, Frinton-on-sea, Walton-on-the-naze.


  • 1 train per hour between Clacton-on-Sea and London Liverpool Street
  • Calls at Thorpe-le-Soken, Great Bentley, Alresford, Wivenhoe, Colchester, Marks Tey, Witham, Chelmsford, Shenfield, Stratford and London Liverpool Street.
  • 1 train per hour between Walton-on-the-Naze and Thorpe-le-Soken
  • Calls at Frinton-on-Sea, Kirby Cross and Thorpe-le-Soken.


Steam era[edit]

The Great Eastern Main Line between London and Ipswich was completed by 1843 and was extended to Ipswich in 1846.

The first short section of the Sunshine Coast Line was built by the Colchester, Stour Valley, Sudbury and Halstead Railway to the port of Hythe opened for goods on 31 March 1847. In 1859 the Tendring Hundred Railway Company was formed to extend the line from Hythe to Wivenhoe which opened on 8 May 1863 for both passenger and goods services from Colchester. By the time the Wivenhoe extension open the line was operated by the Great Eastern Railway (GER).

The line was then extended to Weeley on 8 January 1866, to Kirby Cross on 28 July 1866, and on to its terminus at Walton-on-the-Naze on 17 May 1867. In the meantime, a short branch to a new, more central station at Colchester St Botolphs opened on 1 March 1866. This station was renamed Colchester Town on 8 July 1991.[2]

A second company, the Wivenhoe & Brightlingsea Railway, had been incorporated in 1861 to build a line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea which opened on 17 April 1866. There were also proposals to build a line to Clacton as early as 1866, but nothing came of them until 1877, when the Clacton-on-Sea Railway was incorporated. The connection from Thorpe-le-Soken to Clacton opened on 4 July 1882, also operated by the GER.

The GER soon negotiated to buy both the Tendring Hundred Railway and the Clacton-on-Sea Railway, and both became part of the GER on 1 July 1883. The Wivenhoe & Brightlingsea was absorbed by the GER on 9 June 1893.[3]

In 1923 the line (along with the rest of the GER) became part of the London and North Eastern Railway.

A section of the line between Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze had to be re-sited in 1929 due to fears of coastal erosion on the original alignment.[4]

Following nationalisation on 1 January 1948, the line became part of the Eastern Region of British Railways.


Electrification of the line commenced in the 1950s and by January 1959 the line was electrified as far as Great Bentley. The first trial train to run on the newly electrified section departed Colchester on 18 January 1959 and terminated at Great Bentley. The line was the first in the UK to be electrified at 25 kV AC, using overhead wires,[5] with electrified services inaugurated on 13 April 1959.[6] Between 1962 and 1992, services on the line were largely operated by a fleet of Class 309 electric multiple unit trains, which were specially designed and constructed for this route. The Class 309s were replaced on this route by more modern rolling stock between 1992 and 1994.

Passenger services have been operated by two different franchises since privatisation in 1997, First Great Eastern ran the services until 31 March 2004 when the National Express Group took over the franchise, with the company branded one Railway until February 2008, at which time it was rebranded to National Express East Anglia.

Manually operated level crossing at Great Bentley station which was replaced with barriers in 2008

Recent developments[edit]

Resignalling 2006-2009[edit]

A £104 million engineering project known as 'The Colchester to Clacton Resignalling Project' took place on the line between December 2006 and July 2009.[7] Life-expired signalling equipment was replaced and a new control system was installed; 170 modern LED signals were installed and eight manual level crossings were upgraded to full barrier crossings with CCTV (including Great Bentley, Frinton-on-Sea, Clacton-on-Sea, Thorrington and Alresford). The line was closed every weekend and bank holiday and a bus replacement service was provided.[8] There was opposition from the town of Frinton to keep the manual gates which were removed 'under cover of darkness'. Folklore has it that fed-up townspeople used to lock the gates to keep out coachloads of tourists.[9]

Car Park Extension at Great Bentley[edit]

In December 2009, Network Rail gave its approval to Great Bentley Parish Council to turn the disused railway siding adjacent to Platform 2 of the railway station into a car park.[10] Once built, it will significantly increase the current parking capacity at the station and will hopefully put an end to the ongoing congestion problems in the village. The car park will also attract commuters to use the station from nearby towns and villages including Brightlingsea, Frating, Thorrington and St Osyth. A growth in the passenger usage at Great Bentley should result in more express trains stopping here.

In April 2010, Network Rail confirmed they have completed all their checks and procedures regarding the proposed car park and are ready to begin negotiating a lease with the Parish Council.[11]

In January 2013, the car park was finally opened to the general public.

Station improvements at Hythe[edit]

Work to upgrade Hythe Station and extend the platforms has been completed. This has improved transport links to the town centre and enable commuters to travel directly into the capital from the station. The Station improvements including replacing the existing station building with new waiting facilities, lighting, CCTV, landscaping and covered space for up to 24 bikes (with room for expansion if usage is high) has been paid for with a £600,000 Haven Gateway New Growth Point grant.

The final phase of works seeks to deliver an innovative public art work that is influenced by the history and context of the Hythe. Commissioned artists Martin Newell and Dale Devereux Barker will be working with the East Colchester community to produce hoardings as an attractive focal point within the developed station.[12]


The line is double track except for the branch between Thorpe-le-Soken and Walton-on-the-Naze which is single track. It is electrified at 25 kV AC, has a loading gauge of W6 and a line speed of between 40-90 mph, except for the branch to Colchester Town which is 0-35 mph.[1]

Passenger services are operated by electric multiple units. Services to Walton-on-the-Naze are Class 321 and Class 360 EMUs. Trains to Clacton are also Class 360 EMUs and Class 321s.

Class 321:

Class 321 National Express East Anglia Diagram.PNG

The Class 321's mostly operate the Walton-on-the-Naze to Colchester local services as 4 cars.

Class 360:

Class 360 National Express East Anglia Diagram.PNG

The Class 360's mostly operate the Clacton-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street semi-fast services as 4 or 8 cars during the off-peak and either 8 or 12 cars during the peak hours.

However, one service between London and Walton-on-the-Naze is operated by a class 360 and some Clacton services use 321's during the rush hour.


  1. ^ a b "Route 7 - Great Eastern" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  2. ^ Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd. pp. 202, 65. ISBN 1-85260-508-1. R508. 
  3. ^ Walsh, B.D.J. (September 1959). Cooke, B.W.C., ed. "The Great Eastern Line in the Tendring Hundred". The Railway Magazine (Westminster: Tothill Press Ltd) 105 (701): 641. 
  4. ^ Body, Geoffrey (1986). PSL Field Guide - Railways of the Eastern Region - Vol 1 : Southern operating area. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Limited. p. 175. ISBN 0-85059-712-9. 
  5. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (June 1959). "High-Voltage Electrification on B.R.". The Railway Magazine (Westminster: Tothill Press Ltd) 105 (698): 369. 
  6. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (June 1959). "Clacton and Walton Electrification". The Railway Magazine (Westminster: Tothill Press Ltd) 105 (698): 378. 
  7. ^ "More reliable railway for Essex as £100m+ upgrade is completed". Network Rail. 2 Sep 2009. Retrieved 8 Sep 2011. 
  8. ^ "MORE RELIABLE RAILWAY FOR ESSEX AS £100M+ UPGRADE IS COMPLETED". NetworkRail. 2009-09-02. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  9. ^ Booth, Robert (2009-04-20). "Frinton-on-Sea's historic railway gates removed 'under cover of darkness'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  10. ^ Plans for new car park at Great Bentley railway station 06/04/2009
  11. ^ Great Bentley Parish News (May 2010)
  12. ^ Hythe station improvements completed