AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 2021
Following the hiatus in railway improvements resulting from the Second World War and its aftermath, the late 1950s saw work start on the Kent Coast Electrification scheme. As well as continuing the programme of main-line electrification started by the Southern Railway in the 1930s, this project represented a number of 'firsts' - the first to employ main line multiple-units built to BR Mark 1 designs; the first to use a higher line voltage of 750 against the 660 of earlier schemes, and the first to see the complete replacement of steam haulage on freight workings by new electric and diesel locomotives. As with the earlier Southern Railway schemes, the new services brought reduced journey times and greatly increased connectivity, leading to increases in passenger numbers and new housing development as commuters moved further out.
Sixty years on, the railways in Kent have arguably undergone more significant change than those elsewhere in the former Southern Region. Aside from timetable changes, new rolling stock, and the upheaval of privatisation, 1994 saw the opening of the Channel Tunnel and the introduction of international services between London, Paris and Brussels. While the Eurostar trains operating these services were based on the French TGV sets, on this side of the Channel they spent their first ten years working over the routes electrified with the third rail three decades earlier. The new century saw construction of a high speed line between St Pancras and the tunnel - the first new main line railway in Britain for over 100 years - cutting international journey times, and opening up a whole new range of domestic journey opportunities throughout the county.
This Southern Way Special Issue looks back at the original scheme of 1959-62 and at the various developments since, bringing the story of the 'Southern Electric' in Kent right up to date.