Sheerness line

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Sheerness line
TypeSuburban rail, Heavy rail
SystemNational Rail
South East England
OwnerNetwork Rail
Rolling stockClass 466 (Typical)
Class 465
Class 375 (Occasional)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed75 mph (121 km/h)
Sheerness line
 Mileage measured from London Victoria

Sheerness Dockyard
Sheerness docks
Queenborough Pier
Rushenden Pier
Kings Ferry Bridge
North Halt
Chatham main line
Left arrow to London Victoria Right arrow via Faversham
The Sheerness Line, shown with other railway lines in Kent
Sheerness-on-Sea railway station
The Kingsferry Bridge

The Sheerness line is located in Kent, England, and connects Sheerness-on-Sea on the Isle of Sheppey with Sittingbourne on the mainland, and with the Chatham Main Line for trains towards London, Ramsgate or Dover Priory. It opened on 19 July 1860.


The Sheerness branch line opened on 19 July 1860,[1] from Sittingbourne to, at first, a station in the Blue Town area of Sheerness, close to the southern edge of the Royal Navy dockyard. In 1883 a further station was added at Sheerness-on-Sea, accessed by a reversing curve from the original station, which was renamed Sheerness Dockyard. At this time, all trains had to run first to the Dockyard station, then reverse (after the engine had changed ends) to Sheerness-on-Sea, and vice versa for the return journey. The original line was built by the independent Sittingbourne and Sheerness Railway company, and taken over by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR) in 1876. After 1899, it was run by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway, formed by the working union of the LC&DR with the South Eastern Railway. In 1902 the so-called Navy Tram Road was constructed from the Dockyard station into HM Dockyard for the transfer of good wagons. In 1922 a direct line to Sheerness-on-Sea station was built, bypassing the older station, from which date all passenger trains ran to the newer station, and the Dockyard station was used only by goods trains. Sheerness-on-Sea station remains open, but the Dockyard station was closed to all traffic in about 1968. Its site is now occupied by sidings serving Sheerness Steel, but the former Navy Tram Road still exists. The Royal Navy dockyard closed in 1961, but the rail link was kept in the belief it would continue to serve the new commercial docks on the former Navy site.[2][3] The line was electrified by British Railways on 15 June 1959 as part of the "Kent Coast electrification" in the 1955 Modernisation Plan.[4] In conjunction with electrification double track was introduced between the junction with the main line and near Swale Halt. In 1960 the bridge over the Swale estuary was rebuilt when a slight deviation of the line was built requiring a new platform at Swale Halt on a different alignment.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 29 June 1892 a train from Sheerness-on-Sea collided with the buffer stops at Sheerness Dockyard station, injuring nine passengers and the driver. The Westinghouse brake connection between the engine (no. 81, an 0-4-2WT of the LCDR Scotchmen class) and train was closed off due to the negligence of the driver and fireman, and was not checked by the guard. All three men were penalised.[5]
  • On 17 December 1922, the Norwegian cargo ship Gyp collided with the Kingsferry Bridge, rendering it unfit to carry rail traffic.[6] The bridge was eventually repaired, and through rail services were restored on 1 November 1923.[7]
  • On 26 February 1971, a train formed of five 2HAP electric multiple units overran the buffers and demolished the station building at Sheerness-on-Sea. One person was killed and ten were injured.[8]

Train services[edit]

The connection to Sittingbourne faces away from London (Coast Bound), and most trains on the line run as shuttles between the station and Sheerness - there are, however, a few through trains which run directly between Newington station and Kemsley via a connecting curve.

Swale station was earmarked for closure, with the Strategic Rail Authority proposing either a Parliamentary train or complete closure. This plan was eventually rejected, and the station retains a regular service.

Train services on the line are operated by Southeastern. The most typical trains that run on the line are 2-car Class 466 Networker EMUs which replaced the old 3-car Class 508 EMUs introduced as a stop gap to replace the Mk1 Slam Door EMUs.[when?] In the case of bad winter weather or operational problems the Class 466 units can sometimes be doubled up, or a Class 465 is used instead. Over the summer holidays or during engineering works between Sittingbourne and Rainham at the weekend, Southeastern have been known to increase the capacity of one or both units by replacing them with a Class 465 Networker or a Class 375 Electrostar. Most services are Standard Class Service on this line apart from some services to or from London Victoria.

The typical Monday-Saturday off-peak service consists of two trains per hour in each direction between Sittingbourne and Sheerness-on-Sea, with an hourly service operating on Sundays.

From the January 2015 timetable change, from Monday to Friday, Southeastern operate two direct services from Sheerness-On-Sea to London Victoria in the morning peak, formed of 6 or 8 car trains. There are also two return services from London Victoria to Sheerness On Sea in the evening peak, formed of 4 or 6 car trains. These services do not stop at Swale or Sittingbourne, but use the third side of a triangle junction (Western Junction) that links the Sheerness Line to the Chatham Mainline. These are normally operated by British Rail Class 465 and 466 Networker trains in multiple. At Sheerness-on-Sea, trains normally use Platform 1, but due to the shorter length of Platform 2, some Sittingbourne bound services now use Platform 2 to allow the Victoria Services to use the longer Platform 1.

From mid November 2019, Class 466 units have been replaced with 3-car Class 375/3 units. (Class 466 units on their own are not compatible with the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Non-Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2010 (RVAR 2010) as of the 1st January 2020.)

150th anniversary[edit]

During July 2010 there were events celebrating 150 years of trains to Sheppey, with a plaque on display at Queenborough Station.

Sheppey Light Railway[edit]

There was a branch line from Queenborough to Leysdown, opened in 1901 and closed 1950 - see the Sheppey Light Railway.



  1. ^ White 1976, p. 93.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (July 1993). Branch Lines Around Sheerness. Middleton Press. ISBN 1 873 793 16 2.[figure needed]
  3. ^ Gray, Adrian (1984). The London, Chatham & Dover Railway. Meresborough Books. ISBN 0905270 886.[page needed]
  4. ^ "Branch to Sheerness". Railway Magazine. Vol. 128 no. 971. March 1982. p. 112. ISSN 0033-8923.
  5. ^ Bradley, D.L. (March 1979) [1960]. The Locomotive History of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (2nd ed.). London: RCTS. p. 55. ISBN 0 901115 47 9. OCLC 59838998.
  6. ^ "King's Ferry Bridge seriously damaged". The Times (43217). London. 18 December 1922. col A, p. 9.
  7. ^ Kidner, R. W. (1985). Southern Railway Halts. Survey and Gazetteer. Headington, Oxford: The Oakwood Press. p. 56. ISBN 0-85361-321-4.
  8. ^ Moody, G. T. (1979) [1957]. Southern Electric 1909-1979 (Fifth ed.). Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. p. 212. ISBN 0 7110 0924 4.


  • White, H.P. (1976). Forgotten Railways : Vol 6 – South-East England. David & Charles. ISBN 0-946537-37-2.