Marshlink line is a railway line in South East England. It runs
Kent via Romney Marsh,
Rye and the Ore Tunnel to
Hastings, connecting to the
East Coastway line
East Coastway line towards Brighton.
The line was constructed by the South Eastern Railway, settling a
rivalry with the London,
Brighton and South Coast Railway that led to
disputes over the route and planning. It opened in 1851 after several
false starts, followed by branch lines to
Rye Harbour in 1854,
Dungeness in 1881 and
New Romney in 1884. The line struggled to be
profitable and it seemed likely that it would close following the
Beeching Report. All the branch lines were closed by 1967 but the main
line was kept open because of poor road connections in the area.
Services are currently being provided by Southern.
Marshlink line is one of the few in
South East England
South East England that has
not been electrified, and uses the
British Rail Class 171
British Rail Class 171 diesel
rolling stock. Despite its relative unimportance in the national rail
network, it is now considered politically significant as
electrification of the line could allow
High Speed 1
High Speed 1 to be extended to
Hastings and Eastbourne.
3.2 Branch to Dungeness and New Romney
3.3 Branches from Rye
3.5 Threatened closure
4 Accidents and incidents
5 Rolling stock
8 External links
The line starts at Ashford International, a major interchange in Kent
connecting it to
High Speed 1
High Speed 1 and the South Eastern main line.
Services run from Platform 1 southwards on double-track towards Ham
Street (previously Ham Street & Orlsetone) and Appledore[a] where
a freight-only branch line operated by
Direct Rail Services
Direct Rail Services diverges
to serve Dungeness nuclear power station. The branch originally served
New Romney, Brookland Halt, Lydd Town, Lydd-on-Sea Halt,
New Romney and Littlestone-on-Sea and
Beyond Appledore, the line is single track and after crossing the
River Rother reaches
Rye where there is a disused branch to Rye
Harbour. The mainline continues to Winchelsea, Snailham Halt
(closed in 1959), Doleham and Three Oaks before entering the 1,402
yards (1,282 m) long Ore Tunnel. After the tunnel, the line is
double track and electrified (originally for access to the carriage
sidings at Ore but since their removal the lines are used by scheduled
trains). After Ore, the line enters the 230-yard (210 m) Mount
Pleasant Tunnel before arriving at Hastings.
Doleham railway station
Doleham railway station has a very limited service on the Marshlink
Passenger services are operated by Southern, as part of its East
Coastway services. Trains run hourly between Ashford and Hastings,
stopping at Ham Street, Appledore and Rye. Three Oaks and Winchelsea
are served by a two-hourly service in each direction (alternating
between one and the other), while Doleham is served by three or four
trains a day. Trains stop at
Hastings before continuing on the East
Coastway line to Brighton. At peak times, an additional hourly shuttle
runs between Ashford and Rye. As of September 2016, direct
services from Ashford past Eastbourne are under threat of closure from
Ore is served by the Brighton-Ashford trains at peak times. Off-peak,
it has electrified services to
Brighton and London (hourly to each),
which start or terminate there. The services use electric multiple
units (usually Class 377s).
Ham Street, Appledore and
Rye have staggered platforms: passengers
cross the line from the end of one platform to the end of the
other. Platforms at Three Oaks and Doleham can only accommodate a
single carriage and passengers wishing to alight must travel in the
front of the train.
The line was part of an original proposal by the
Brighton Lewes and
Hastings Railway (BLHR) to extend its coast route to Hastings. The
South Eastern Railway (SER) were keen to build the line, thereby
renewing a local rivalry between itself and the London,
South Coast Railway (LB&SCR), who had already built the line to
Brighton. Deemed to be of strategic military importance, in June
1846, Parliament ordered that it was to be completed before the
extension of the
Hastings line from Tunbridge Wells to
Hastings. As part of the order, the BLHR were authorised to
build the line from
Hastings to Ashford, with a caveat that the SER
could take over operation if they so wished. Since the proposed line
passed through countryside with only
Rye as a significant settlement,
the SER easily managed to acquire it.
Construction began in early 1847, but relationships between the
LB&SCR and SER broke down quickly. The SER were unhappy about the
proposed line from
Hastings via Ore, which they viewed as too
expensive compared to the alternative route via Whatlington. The
LB&SCR objected to this route as it was longer, and consequently
the SER dropped their proposals in November 1847. The land over
Romney Marsh was unstable, and test trains were seen to tip over in
heavy winds. The line was originally proposed to be single-track,
though this was changed to double-track in June 1850.
The original proposed opening of the line was on 28 October 1850 by
Thomas Farncombe, Lord Mayor of London, but the line was far from
complete by this time and so the ceremony was postponed. A second
proposed opening date of 1 January 1851 was rejected due to signaling
The line was eventually opened on 13 February 1851, though as a result
of the rivalries between the companies, the LB&SCR attempted to
prevent SER trains from entering
Hastings station. After a court
case, the two companies agreed to share the station's facilities for
both lines. Even after opening, there were complaints in early
1852 that the line was not completely finished, and it was still
marked as "nearly complete" in March 1853.
The railway's location was problematic. It passed through no places of
Hastings and Ashford aside from Rye. Some
stations were a considerable distance away from the settlement they
were supposed to serve; Appledore station is around 1.5 miles
(2.4 km) from the village itself. Little changes were made to
the railway throughout the 19th century aside from minor signaling
work and some additional buildings. It was not declared profitable
by the SER until 1895.
Branch to Dungeness and New Romney
An obsolete stile over the former 1937 realignment of the line from
Lydd to New Romney, closed since 1967
In 1859, the Town Clerk of
New Romney suggested a line should be
constructed from Folkestone to
Rye via Dymchurch and Lydd, but the SER
was not interested. However, in 1866 they were favourable about a
branch line from Appledore. An Act of Parliament to build the line was
obtained on 30 July that year, which included a branch to Denge Beach.
On 5 August 1873, the SER were authorized to extend the line to
Dungeness with a 100-yard (91 m) pier and landing stage. Progress
stalled on the line in the 1870s and the SER were in danger of a rival
railway taking over construction.  The development of the
artillery range at Lydd increased the potential for traffic, so the
newly formed Lydd Railway proposed their own bill to work on the
Appledore – Lydd branch line. Work began on 8 April 1881 and opened
to Dungeness on 7 December that year.[b] An act for the northward
New Romney was granted on 24 July 1882, with the line
opening on 18 June 1884.
The line was not a financial success, and the Lydd Railway was
absorbed into the SER in 1895. A passing loop past Appledore was
removed in 1920. At the
New Romney end, one of the sidings adjoining
the station was extended to serve the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch
Railway. The line was realigned to be closer to the coast in the
1930s, opening on 4 July 1937. At the same time, the branch to
Dungeness was closed to passengers.
Branches from Rye
Rye in 1945, showing the branch line towards
Rye Harbour and
Rye and Camber Tramway
In 1854, a short branch was constructed from
Rye station towards Rye
Harbour. It was 3⁄8 mile (0.60 km) long and only used for
freight. It ended by the River Rother at a pier. It was almost
derelict by 1955, and closed around 1962.
Rye and Camber Tramway
Rye and Camber Tramway was a separate isolated line the other side
of the river. A 1 3⁄4-mile (2.8 km) section from
Golf Links Halt opened on 13 July 1895, followed by a 1⁄2-mile
(0.80 km) extension to Camber Sands, opening on 13 July 1908. The
line was closed in 1939 following competition from bus services and
was temporarily part-converted to road during the war. It was returned
to railway after hostilities ended, but the line was impractical to
repair to full use and hence closed permanently.
The line was electrified from
Hastings to Ore in 1935. This was done
in order that trains could be serviced in a siding away from the
centre of Hastings; this has since closed. Electrification through
to Ashford was planned, but abandoned in 1939 when the war
Marshlink line was single-tracked in 1979, Winchelsea
railway station has only used one platform
The line was recommended for closure by Dr.
Richard Beeching in the
1963 Beeching Report, as in addition to its inconvenient location, it
maintained fully manned staff at all stations despite low passenger
numbers. Like several other lines threatened with closure, there
was strong opposition, and the route survived because the nearby road
network made it impractical to run a replacement bus service. The
parallel main road from
Hastings to Brenzett, the A259, had several
level crossings over the line and a hairpin bend at Winchelsea, all of
which remain as of the 21st century. At the same time as the
Beeching Report was published,
Arthur Irvine complained that a bus
took an hour to travel the 19 miles (31 km) between
Ashford. The branch to
New Romney closed on 6 March 1967,
although since 1975 freight traffic has used the line as far as a
nuclear flask loading and unloading point just outside Dungeness.
This branch now sees flask trains about once a week. Very occasional
passenger services are run for rail enthuasists; as of 2008 the former
Lydd station was beginning to fall into disrepair. The branch to Rye
Harbour was lifted at around the same time as the
New Romney Branch's
Most of the
Marshlink line is now single track. At the River
Tillingham bridge in
Rye shown, it is clear where the second track
In 1969, Railway Magazine announced the remainder of the line would
close at the end of the year, while in 1971, the
Kent Messenger stated
the same. On 31 July 1974, the
Ministry of Transport recommended the
line for closure but stated that services would run indefinitely for
the foreseeable future.
Michael Heseltine said a condition of the
line closing would be improvements to buses from Ashford to Ore.
Stations remained unmodernised and gas-lit well into the 1970s. By
British Rail had started to modernise the route, though
proposals to electrify the line were rejected as improvements to the
South Eastern main line
South Eastern main line from Tonbridge to Ashford were a higher
priority at the time. Despite the proposals to axe the service, it
has survived to the present day.
The line was single tracked between Appledore and Ore on 1 October
1979, leaving a passing loop at Rye. At Winchelsea, the down platform
was removed; trains in both directions now stop on the former up
platform. Line speed was reduced from 85 mph to
60 mph, but there are additional long term speed restrictions
in place, including 40 mph between Doleham and Ore and
20 mph across a half barrier level crossing at Winchelsea.
In the 1990s, following privatisation, the original Victorian station
building at Ore was demolished and replaced with a simple shelter.
The line was run by
Connex South Eastern
Connex South Eastern from 1996 until 2000, when
Southern took over management.
The line was closed for nine weeks from January to March 2012 for
essential repair work to Ore tunnel. There was also maintenance to
signals and bridges to increase train speeds along the line.
Accidents and incidents
Accidents occurring at Ashford and
Hastings stations are not covered.
On 27 December 1898, eight passengers were injured when a horse box
was roughly shunted and collided with the passenger train it was to be
attached to at Appledore.
On 14 March 1980, an empty stock train comprising five
vehicles derailed at Appledore due to excessive speed through a set of
points. The driver was killed. A motor coach was consequently
withdrawn from service due to extensive damage.
A Class 171 DMU train with Southern livery at Ashford International
This line is one of few in South-East England not to be completely
electrified. Consequently, the line was steam-operated until 1962,
when Class 205 "Thumper" diesel units were introduced. Services
are now operated using Class 171 "Turbostar" DMUs, replacing
the Class 205s and Class 207s in 2003. Concern has been raised
that these units will need to be replaced by the end of the
The line is strategically important, as electrification and junction
improvements would mean that
High Speed 1
High Speed 1 trains could travel directly
from St Pancras International to Hastings. In 2015, Amber Rudd, Member
of Parliament for Hastings, campaigned for electrification works to
start within the next two years. The aim is to reduce times to London
Hastings to 68 minutes, and from
Rye to under an hour.
This would require remodelling Ashford International station so the
Marshlink line could connect to HS1, installing power
systems, and adding a passing loop at Rye, all in addition to
requiring new trains. An alternative proposal was put forward in
2016 that involved hybrid overhead / battery powered trains, which
would not require electrification on the Marshlink line. The two
level crossings with the A259 have been criticised as being
inadequate, and a decision would be required with the Highways Agency,
who manage the road, as to what work is required to make the upgrades
The Marshlink Action Group is a volunteer group set up in 2003 in the
interests of passengers using the line. The group are concerned
about its facilities, particularly the use of Class 171 DMUs when all
connecting lines have been electrified. They have reported a high
proportion of children and the elderly use the line compared to others
in the south east, and that trains are now at capacity but there
is no additional stock because of its state as an isolated
non-electric line. In 2016, Rudd chaired a working group to look
at short and long-term plans for upgrading the Marshlink line,
including the potential accommodation of Class 395 rolling stock.
In November 2017, it was suggested that the line could use British
Rail Class 802 electro-diesel multiple unit trains, allowing direct
running between HS1 and Hastings. Damian Green, MP for Ashford,
endorsed the suggestion as it would allow more services running from
St Pancras to Ashford International generally.
^ The station's formal name includes (Kent) in its title, although
Appledore (Devon) station closed in 1917.
^ The line was freight-only beyond Lydd; full passenger services to
Dungeness opened on 1 April 1883
National Rail Enquires. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
^ Julia Barnes; Maureen Richards; Anthony Barnes (2013). Northam,
Westward Ho! & District Through Time. Amberley Publishing Limited.
p. 82. ISBN 978-1-4456-1861-6.
^ a b c Gray 1990, p. 228.
^ a b White 1976, p. 100.
^ a b c d Gray 1990, p. 211.
^ a b Sissons 2008, p. 411.
^ Body 1984, p. 40.
^ Body 1984, p. 106.
^ "ESRA comments on new Thameslink/Southern franchise". Rail
Technology Magazine. January 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
^ "10 :
Hastings to Ashford (timetable)". Southern. Retrieved 25
^ "Southern trains owner in timetable shake-up plan". BBC News. 19
September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
^ "Southern's Class 377 refurbishment programme completes". Southern
Railway News. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
^ "Short Platforms". The Railway Magazine. 137: 221. 1991.
^ a b "Letter from Bexhill Rail Action Group to RUS Programme Manager"
(PDF). Network Rail. 2009: 6. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
^ a b Sissons 2008, p. 399.
^ Beecroft 1986, p. 7.
^ a b Gray 1990, p. 208.
^ Gray 1990, pp. 208–9.
^ a b Gray 1990, p. 210.
^ Le Vay 2014, p. 257.
^ Sissons 2008, p. 401.
^ White 1976, p. 97.
^ Gray 1990, pp. 212–3.
^ Gray 1990, p. 214.
^ Gray 1990, p. 227.
^ White 1976, p. 98.
^ White 1976, p. 137.
^ White 1976, p. 138,171.
^ White 1976, pp. 146–7.
^ a b Sissons 2008, p. 412.
^ a b c d e Toynbee, Mark. "A Brief History". Marshlink Action Group.
Retrieved 26 August 2016.
^ a b Sissons 2008, p. 402.
^ Sissons 2008, p. 408.
^ a b c "Market study response by Marshlink Action Group" (PDF).
Network Rail. 21 July 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
^ "Railways". Hansard. 30 April 1963. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
Kent Rail. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
^ Sissons 2008, p. 402,405.
^ White 1976, p. 101.
^ "Rye-Ashford Area (Public Transport)". Hansard. 26 November 1970.
Retrieved 25 August 2016.
^ a b Sissons 2008, p. 403.
Channel Tunnel Bill". Hansard. 16 February 1987. Retrieved 25
^ "Rail Electrification". Hansard. 16 February 1983. Retrieved 26
^ a b "Proposal for Javelin Trains". Marshlink Action Group. Retrieved
26 August 2016.
^ "Southern Railway announcement, essential repair work to Ore tunnel
in January". Retrieved 9 May 2012.
^ "Southern Railway announcement on
Marshlink line walks in March".
Retrieved 9 May 2012.
^ Board of Trade. "(Extract for the Accident at Appledore on 26th
December 1898)" (PDF). Retrieved 24 November 2016.
^ Beecroft 1986, p. 63.
Network Rail Route Plan A 2010" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 9
^ a b "High speed for
Rye is on track".
Rye and Battle Observer. 4
April 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
^ "Renewed calls for high speed train services at rail summit".
Hastings Observer. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
^ "High speed service to run between Ashford and
Hastings from London
after Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin attends rail summit".
Kent Business. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
^ "Hybrid trains alternative to electrifying 1066 country railway".
Hastings Observer. 18 March 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
^ "More Give Than Take on Marshlink".
Rye News. 3 February 2015.
Retrieved 20 August 2016.
^ "MarshLink Action Group". Retrieved 25 August 2016.
^ "Working group set up to bring high-speed rail to 1066 country".
Hastings Observer. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
^ "New Hybrid Trains for HS1?". Rail UK. 22 November 2017. Retrieved 8
Beecroft, Geoffrey (1986). The
Hastings Diesels Story. Chessington:
Southern Electric Group. ISBN 0-906988-20-9.
Body, Geoffrey (1984). Railways of the Southern Region. P. Stephens.
Gray, Adrian (1990). South Eastern Railway. Middleton Press.
Le Vay, Benedict (2014). Britain from the Rails: Including the
nation's best-kept-secret railways. Bradt Travel Guides.
Sissons, Rob (2008). Single Track Obsession: A Book of Extraordinary
Railway Journeys. Trafford Publishing.
White, H.P. (1976). Forgotten Railways : Vol 6 – South-East
England. David & Charles. ISBN 0-946537-37-2.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marshlink line.
Railfuture article on the Marshlink line
Railway lines in the South East
High Speed 1
Great Western main line
West Coast Main Line
Milton Keynes Central
Chiltern Main Line
Waterloo–Reading line (and in Surrey)
Windsor & Eton Riverside line (and in Surrey)
Crossrail (under construction) (and past London to Essex)
Kent to London
Chatham main line
Dartford Loop Line
Kent Coast line
Medway Valley line
Ramsgate (via Canterbury West) line
South Eastern main line
Redhill–Tonbridge line (and in Surrey)
Arun Valley line
Brighton main line
Hampton Court branch line
Hastings line (and in Kent)
Chertsey branch line
Epsom Downs Branch
New Guildford line
Oxted line (and in Kent)
Portsmouth Direct line
Shepperton branch line
South Western main line
Sutton and Mole Valley lines
Tattenham Corner line
Thameslink (and past London to Beds/Herts)
West of England line
Cherwell Valley line
East Coastway line
East Coastway line (inc Marshlink line)
Henley branch line
Lymington branch line
Marlow branch line
Marston Vale line
North Downs Line
Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line
West Coastway line
Wessex Main Line
Slough–Windsor & Eton line
Seaford branch line
Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway
Cholsey & Wallingford Railway
Isle of Wight Steam Railway
East Sussex Railway
Spa Valley Railway
Coley branch line
Hundred of Hoo Railway