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Rail services and station returning to parts of Kent after 1960s closure

Thameslink-like train shown. Unlikely to serve it instead of busy stations towards Rainham

A railway line that closed to passengers after cuts in the 1960s has been given £63 million to partly reopen with a new passenger station also planned.

Agreement this month after 2019 announcement

The line is currently freight-only and branches off past Gravesend towards the Hoo Peninsula. An agreement this week between Medway Council and Homes England has signed off a £63 million award from the Housing Infrastructure Fund which will provide services for 12,000 new homes.

Heading to Hoo

Trains which currently run from London via Dartford and terminate at Gravesend could extend to a new terminus located at a new station on Sharnal Street near the site of a former station which closed in 1961. A shuttle service to Strood has also been mooted.

From Medway Council document

The press release is of course very positive and some media outlets report it word-for-word including claims of a High Speed station (!).

Lots of car parking around station. Let’s hope for a fair few more homes within walking distance

There are however more than a few obstacles.

Since closing to passengers, the line remains in use for freight traffic but is not electrified and only single track. Existing Southeastern passenger stock cannot simply be sent down the line. If they hope for through services to London – as Medway Council have stated – it will need third rail electrification and that is extremely difficult to gain approval for. Safety is often given as a major reason – though in some places that means old diesel trains operating pumping out pollutants. Not exactly great for people breathing that in.

Will Network Rail and rail safety organisations finally overcome their own opposition and allow a short stretch of third rail electrification?

Plans to upgrade existing fleet of 30+ year old trains – or replace – continually delayed

Or will we see little more than a branch line service run towards Strood using old diesels?

One other alternative is an entirely new hybrid fleet for Southeastern. I don’t think that’s happening soon and isn’t very efficient. Every train dragging a diesel engine on electric running is heavy and wasteful.

Inevitably some are moaning and claiming everyone will work from home from now on so cancel it. Really? I doubt the majority of people will be working from home five days a week in a decade’s time. Sure, in the short term working practices have changed and some of that will feed through to the mid and long term but fundamentally a need and demand for services will remain.

Many employees will still need to visit the office, clients and there is of course leisure traffic. Bosses will want to keep tabs on staff. For others getting to the local shop or industrial estate will be needed for work or leisure, and 12,000 new homes would mean a hell of a lot of cars heading into overcrowded and congested Medway with no rail service – even with some road upgrades.

 

 

11 Comments

  1. Gosh I remember that when it was little steam trains.

  2. David Riddle

    Only £63 million? How far is that going to go?? A tiny, largely unmanned, new, Manston Parkway Station is expected to cost a staggering £34.5 million alone.. and that’s just the current estimate.

  3. Graham

    I think the new passenger service and the new station for the Hoo Peninsula would be very much welcomed to serve the new homes planned for the area.

    It is important that new developments have improvements to the public transport infrastructure for residentsmoving to the area.

    A lot of people living in the Medway Towns do continue to commute to Central London for work.

  4. peter luck

    No indication here of whether the passenger service would extend to Grain. It is hardly a development site but there are residents and there is still some industrial activity which isn’t going anywhere. And if wanting to run a shuttle into Strood, a new loop will be needed to join the main line – the existing points towards Gravesend and London.

  5. Les Foster

    New trains in East Anglia are ‘bi-modal’ – on electrified lines they pick up current from overhead wires and change to built-in diesel engines on non-electrified sections. However, adapting existing third-rail electric trains is likely to be much more expensive than electrifying the last few miles to Sharnal Street station. Alternatively, separate diesel engines could be attached at Gravesend for the final part of the route, as was done between Bournemouth and Weymouth before third rail electrification was extended all the way.

  6. Nathan

    Excellent news about the new station.

    I will say however that I disagree that despite Covid people will still commute to London, trends are showing that more people are leaving London in favour of smaller cities and companies are adapting to allow staff to work from home for half the week.

    Covid has changed how we work, travel and live

    • Graham

      Your right to a point Nathan, but a lot of companies are now wanting staff to return to the offices in the long term. Home working is more suited to the private sector rather than Government Departments etc. Working from home is also having a knock on effect with the hospitality industry in larger cities.

  7. Chris Fribbins

    The project is progressing through Network Rail. Services would only run to a new transport interchange at Sharnel Street. Loop towards Strood at Hoo junction is being planned. Initially it is thought that a half hourly service could be provided to Strood (then either Rainham or Medway Valley Line). Peak morning and evening to London via Dartford and Lewisham). Trains would be third rail (can’t afford new multmide stock just for that short distance and diesels would not be allowed either) 2024/2025

    • Jacques

      So apart from a couple of peak trains to London via Gravesend, the residents of the new town and the growing Hoo St Werburgh, are expected to trundle to Strood, in order to travel westwards?? Furthermore, the regularly delayed HS services (courtesy of the very slow Thameslink trains and freight), could now become further delayed, due to having a ‘popper’ service, occupying the North Kent line between Hoo Junction and Strood.

      An easy solution would have been to reinstate the 10 car down siding, just beyond the London end of platform 2 at Gravesend. A new crossover from the Up NK 100m to 200m or so, country end of Gravesend station, to the Down NK in the up direction, would provide access for trains to enter platform 2 – ie; a new bi directional platform.
      The cost is relatively minimal and would sharply increase capacity availability, at a station that (in truth), needs more platforms – and lines. Many new residents settling in Hoo, will be relying upon good strong rail driven commuter links, to London – Europe’s only global city. ‘Poppers’ to Strood will be restrictive, time consuming and ideologically stupid – ie it must go into Medway Towns, because the new development is in Medway 😏.
      Gravesend is the natural terminus for these new services and would limit their occupation on one of the busiest main lines in southern England and keep free, availability for new longer distance rail services, towards Medway, Maidstone, Swale, Canterbury district and Thanet.
      There is even the potential for an East Gravesend station going forward – coupled with substantial regeneration in northeast Gravesham. Yet silence from Medway and zero cooperation in getting it right, the first time around.
      It beggars belief that Medway Council, had not bothered to liaise with Gravesham Council on this matter.
      There will be strong opposition to having HS services slowed down further still, to accommodate Hoo residents using the ill fitted Higham station. Furthermore, road traffic from the peninsula to Strood station will sharply increase, as it will be much quicker to access that station by road, rather than trundle on a train in a ‘U’ bend direction! Additionally, new Hoo residents may opt to drive into Gravesend and pick up any one of 8 tph available to them currently.

  8. So, images of a big car park, lots of talk of walking distances up to 30 mintues. Surely this should have decent cycle links and parking from the start! Overlooked?

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