- South Eastern Main Line
The South Eastern Main Line is one of two long-distance routes crossing the county of
Kent, England, UKto reach to Kent Coast. The other route is the Chatham Main Line, which runs along the north Kent coast to Ramsgate and Dover via Chatham.
Stopping services run from London Bridge to Orpington, with other services on the route running fast over this section. Beyond Orpington, stopping services originating from Sevenoaks cover the stations with other services on the rotue running fast over this section
At Paddock Wood, the
Medway Valley Linediverges.
At Ashford, the Swanley to Ashford (via Maidstone East) Line and
High Speed 1joins in, while several lines diverge; Ashford to Ramsgate (via Canterbury West) line, High Speed 1 and Marshlink Line(to Hastings).
Broadly speaking services divide, continuing to Margate via the
Ashford to Ramsgate (via Canterbury West) lineor they continue on the main line to Dover then takes the Kent Coast Lineto rejoin at Ramsgate to reach Margate.
Trains on the routes are run by Southeastern.
The line was built by the South Eastern Railway (SER), who were in competition with the
London, Chatham and Dover Railway(LCDR), hence the duplication of stations in Kent.
The original main line was given sanction by
Act of Parliamentin 1836, running from London Bridge via Croydon East and Redhill (the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway's Brighton Main Line), Tonbridge, and Ashford to Folkestone and Dover. This circuitous route was the result of insistence on the part of Parliament that only one southerly route out of the capital was necessary; forcing the SER to share the LB&SCR's Brighton Main Line. This completely ignored the fact that the main London - Dover "road" had, since ancient times, followed a much more direct route; and it ignored the fact that the other great railway building projects did take direct routes whenever feasible. A passenger to Dover had a 20-mile longer journey than by the coaching route!
Due to competition with the LCDR (who had constructed the quicker
Chatham Main Lineand Swanley to Ashford (via Maidstone East) Line (to Sevenoaks, Canterbury, Dover, Ramsgate, Ashford and Maidstone), the SER built a very expensive line via Sevenoaks and Orpington through the North Downsby means of summits and then long tunnels at both Knockholt and Sevenoaks. This "cut-off" line, 24 miles in length, reached Chislehurst on 1 July 1865, but took three more years to reach Orpington and Sevenoaks (opening date 2 March 1868) and Tonbridge ( 1 May 1868).
When the SER and LCDR merged in 1899 to form the
South Eastern and Chatham Railway(SECR) the stations and track layout at Ashford and Dover were rationalised.
The line was electrified with third rail, in many stages. Orpington was reached, via Victoria, in July 1925 as part of the "South Eastern Electrification- Stage 1" programme by the newly created Southern Railway, using its standard of 660V DC
third rail. In February 1926 the lines from Charing Cross and Cannon Street via London Bridge to Orpington were electrified as part of the "North Kent Electrification" programme. In 1935 with the completion of London urban electrification, Southern expanded its focus to the "outer suburban" routes, with electrification extended to Sevenoaks in January 1935. Postwar, the newly nationalised British Railstarted to implement its 1955 BR Modernisation plan. This extended electrification to the Kent Coast in two stages, with the South Eastern Main Line being subject of "Kent Coast Electrification - Stage 2" in June 1961. This was accompanied by a voltage upgrade to 750V DC across the whole the Southern Region of British Railways.
The line was largely left untouched, until the arrival of the
Channel Tunnelat Cheriton, near Folkestone. Prior to construction of High Speed 1, services joined the South Eastern Main line and ran to through to Petts Wood, where the route joined the Chatham Main Lineinto Waterloo International. Freight services for the Channel Tunnel were routed via the Maidstone East Line. The CTRL was built alongside the line to Ashford where is joined in to gain access to the existing station. The CTRL diverges west of Ashford to pursue a separate route to its new London terminus (St Pancras). Thus a short section of the line through Ashford is also electrified at 25 kV AC.
* [http://www.setrains.co.uk/SETrains/PlanYourJourney/SouthEasternTimetables/ SET timetables (map of line via PDF)]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMZBBWs6wgI Video of Charing Cross to Sevenoaks]
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