The Anonymous Widower

Trains Along The South Coast

I had lunch today with an old friend who lives near Bosham station in West Sussex.

They indicated that the train service along the South Coast to Brighton wasn’t the best.

So I thought, I’d have a bit of an explore on Wikipedia.

The route between Ashford International and Weymouth stations can be divided into four sections.

Weymouth To Southampton – The South Western Main Line

The South Western Main Line runs between Weymouth and Southampton Central stations.

  • There are twenty stations.
  • The operating speed is 100 mph.
  • The line is fully electrified.
  • The line is double-track, except for between Dorchester South and Moreton stations.
  • There would only appear to be one level crossing at Brockenhurst station.

it is a high quality electrified line, where a well-driven train can keep up a good time.

The fastest trains take an hour and twenty minutes between Weymouth and Southampton with nine stops.

Southampton To Brighton – The West Coastway Line

The West Coastway Line runs between Southampton Central and Brighton stations.

Following the line on Google Maps, the line could probably have an increased speed limit, but the problem is obvious in the number of level crossings.

Timings on the line are as follows.

  • Southampton Central to Brighton takes one hour forty-five minutes.
  • Portsmouth to Brighton takes one hour twenty minutes.
  • Portsmouth to Southampton takes forty minutes.

These times are for faster journeys without changes.

Brighton To Hastings – The East Coastway Line

The East Coastway Line runs between Brighton and Hastings stations

Fastest journeys between Brighton and Hastings take an hour.

Hastings To Ashford International – The Marshlink Line

The Marshlink Line runs between Hastings and Ashford International stations.

  • There are nine stations.
  • The operating speed is 60 mph.
  • The line is double-track with sections of single-track.
  • The line is not electrified.
  • There are several level crossings.

Fastest journeys between Ashford Internsational and Hastings take forty minutes.

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how high-speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

  1. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC
  2. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC
  3. Use Class 802 Electro-Diesel Trains
  4. Use Class 395 Or Class 801 Trains With Batteries

I examined the options in full detail in Options For High Speed To Hastings.

Class 313 Trains

When I travel to the area I inevitably find that I’m travelling in a Class 313 train.

  • The trains entered service in 1976.
  • The trains are the oldest electric multiple units in service on the British mainland.
  • The trains are only three cars.
  • The trains have no toilets.
  • The trains have a maximum speed of 75 mph.

Their biggest problem, is that because the trains have such a poor performance, all routes on which they are likely to run have to be geared to a train running at 75 mph, that is not the quickest at executing a stop at a station.

It should be remembered that the time a train takes to stop at a station, unload and load passengers and then restart and accelerate to linespeed, is a major factor in determining the schedule on a route with a lot of stations.

Train manufacturers and operators have been doing a lot of work to reduce this time and a modern train could be almost a minute or even more quicker than a Class 313 train, at each stop.

Wikipedia says this about the introduction of the Class 313 trains, which replaced more modern and faster Class 377 trains.

The 313s commenced operations with Southern on 23 May 2010, providing a two-trains-per-hour service between Brighton and Seaford, and some trains between Brighton and Lewes, Hove, West Worthing and Littlehampton.[12] From 13 December 2010, their operation expanded to stopping services from Brighton to Portsmouth Harbour and the Littlehampton to Bognor Regis shuttle.

The decision to use 313s on the Coastway lines has been controversial, as they are much older than the 377s and have fewer on-board passenger facilities.

The rail union RMT criticised the move and many publications including the BBC have questioned the introduction of 35-year-old trains with no lavatories in place of much newer units. These trains are deployed on services that operate predominantly over short distances, such as Brighton to Hove and Brighton to Seaford, and some longer (but stopping) services that provide predominantly local links that run alongside 377s on faster services.

The introduction of 313s on the Coastway routes facilitated the delivery of additional capacity on high-demand suburban routes in South London, where 10-car trains services are to be introduced combined with platform lengthening.

This report on the BBC gives more details.

The Major Problems Along The South Coast

Summarising the previous sections, the major problems on the route can be summarised.

  • The Class 313 trains with their poor performance are not fit for purpose.
  • The numerous level crossings significantly reduce the operating speed of the route.
  • The lack of electrification on the Marshlink Line is a serious obstacle to better London-Hsstings services via HS1.

I would also question, if there is sufficient capacity along the line, especially as there are now three Premier League clubs along its route.

In the following section, I shall detail what is proposed and a few extra actions, that I feel should be taken.

Improve The Marshlink Line

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how Southeastern  High-Speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

  1. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC
  2. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC
  3. Use Class 802 electro-diesel trains
  4. Use Class 395 Or Class 801 trains With Batteries.

As to which option is chosen, Modern Railways says this.

The option to use a ‘hybrid’ electric/self-powered (diesel or battery) train is suggested as being a ‘more cost-effective way forward’, with linespeed improvements then delivered in an incremental way.

I examined the options in full detail in Options For High Speed To Hastings.

If the improvement was comprehensive, it would give the following advantages.

  • High-Speed services from St. Pancras to Hastings.
  • Journeys from Ashford International to Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth would be all electric and if desired could be without a change of train.
  • Better connectivity along the South Coast to Continental services at Ashford International station.
  • A secondary route from London to Brighton in case of closure of the Brighton Main Line.

If an off-the-shelf solution like Class 802 trains were to be used, the improvements could be delivered in a timely manner.

Remove As Many Level Crossings As Possible

Removal of level crossings is a sensitive issue, but from Southampton to Ashford International, they are a serious limit on the operating speed of the trains.

But it is not just the trains that suffer, but road traffic as well.

Consider Hampden Park station, where Wikipedia says this about the level crossing.

The level crossing at Hampden Park is thought to be one of the busiest in the country, with an average fourteen train movements an hour off-peak, and this can lead to significant traffic congestion on adjacent roads.

As some services actually cross it twice to call at Eastbourne station, this level crossing certainly needs to be eliminated.

Improved Stations

Several of the stations have been upgraded, but I believe that step-free access and longer platforms are needed at quite a few stations.

Brighton and Hove Albion are now one of three Premier League football teams along the South Coast and Falmer station needs to be improved, so that higher-capacity trains can serve the ground on match days.

The Plans Of South Western Railway

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways also gives details of the plans of the new South Western Railway franchise from December 2018.

This is said.

A direct service will link Portsmouth, Southampton and Weymouth, while there will be a second hourly semi-fast service between Portsmouth and Southampton offering a total of 29 additional services between the cities on Mondays to Saturdays.

Wikipedia also says that there will be another thirty five Monday to Saturday services between London and Portsmouth, with more on Sundays.

Services Between London And Portsmouth

Currently, on a typical day there are sixty-nine down services and seventy-one up services. So as thirty-five extra services are going to be provided, then that means there will be a twenty-five percent increase in services between London and Portsmouth.

So would this mean that London to Portsmouth has a frequency of five trains per hour (tph), as against three tph for Southampton?

As South Western Railway will be introducing additional Portsmouth to Weymouth services, will this mean that there will be two fast routes to London from Weymouth?

  • A direct train.
  • One with a change at Havant on to Portsmouth Direct Line services.

South Western Railway have certainly thought long and hard.

The Class 313 Trains Will Go To The Scrapyard

With all the fast 100 mph trains rushing between Ashford International and Brighton and Portsmouth and Weymouth, the Class 313 trains will be worse than inadequate and the best place for them will be the scrapyard.

I just wonder though if South Western Railway’s unwanted but new Class 707 trains could replace the Class 313 trains along parts of the South Coast.

  • They are 100 mph trains, probably with a good stopping performance, which could save a minute at every stop.
  • They are five-car units.
  • They have toilets.

As an illustration of the difference the new trains could make, the current Portsmouth to Brighton service takes around one hour twenty minutes with twenty stops.

A rough estimate indicates that Portsmouth to Brighton could be under an hour with new 100 mph trains.

The only problems would be that they couldn’t work a Marshlink Line without electrification and services along the South Coast are provided by three different companies.


A lot of improvement is possible in services along the South Coast.

Adjusting current timings for new trains with a better stopping performance could give the following sectional timings.

  • Ashford International to Hastings – 35 minutes
  • Hastings to Brighton – 60 minutes
  • Brighton to Portsmouth – 60 minutes
  • Portsmouth to Southampton – 35 minutes

I believe that an Ashford International to Southampton time of three hours is possible.

This is a similar time as going via London and using HS1.


May 23, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. SWT’s 707 class do not have toilets. Perhaps the 365s that were intended to go to GWR could return to 3rd rail territory for Southern.

    Comment by Paul | May 23, 2017 | Reply

  2. There’s a few possibilities. I think a lot depends on what happens on the Marshlink Line. Hitachi will probably decide, as it would be sensible to have a South Coast Express perhaps run with an 802, that could do St. Pancras to Brighton, with 140 mph on HS1. These would be backed up by something suitable doing the local services along the route.

    Someone told me the power is a bit dodgy west of ournemouth, so perhaps we might see an innovative solution there.

    Comment by AnonW | May 23, 2017 | Reply

  3. Hastings to Brighton times could be further improved by rebuilding the Stone Cross triangle – Perhaps that connection would have improved the chances of the Hastings university campus attracting enough students to remain open?

    Comment by matbest | May 25, 2017 | Reply

  4. That triangle is a disaster, as any train to Eastbourne has to cross the Hampden Park level crossing on the way in and the way out.

    It bis one of the busiest level crossings in the country.

    The first thing would be to use the techniques employed on the Acton dive-under to create a shallow tunnel, so that the level crossing could be closed.

    I suspect that modern signalling would allow the line to be single track with a one platform station at Hampden POark to save space.

    Creating a fast line avoiding Eastbourne would probably be another idea, but the problem is that Eastbourne is a very busy station.

    The Germans would probably create a parkway station on the short cut and have a tram or shuttle train connect the station to all parts of Eastbourne.

    Thanks for the bit about the Hastings University Campus.

    Comment by AnonW | May 25, 2017 | Reply

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I too have wondered whether the 707s could/should be Coastway bound. I think it would be a good idea for several reasons.

    Southern I understand have 19 313s so 30 707s might seem too many at first glance. However, Southern plan to introduce an additional hourly Brighton/Lewes service and also split the Ashford service at Hastings. So they may require several extra electric units to achieve this.

    Around 12000 fans travel to and from Falmer on match days at the Amex. This causes a lot of operational headaches for Southern. In particular (i) the need to lengthen and/or provide additional services on the East Coastway and also (ii) delays on the West Coastway before matches, due to extended dwell times as 313s are loaded to capacity. You can tell it’s a match day at my local station Hove just by observing the platform screens. Everything eastbound is generally delayed around 10 minutes, including of course London services, meaning the ripples of this localised overcrowding issue can spread 50 miles. Sometimes it is physically impossible to board a train at Hove.

    For evening games the pre-kick off problems are even more acute as there are the dual challenges of insufficient spare rolling stock to run additional/lengthen existing services and football bound passengers travelling in a more condensed time-frame during the already crowded evening peak.

    One 5-car 707 has approximately the same capacity (seating and standing) as an 8-car 377 so Southern could conceivably run a normal service on match days using 707s with no lower capacity than the current enhanced service using 377s and 313s. The wider doors and metro style interior should help reduce dwell times and delays.

    Lack of toilets aside, they seem almost an ideal fit to me for replacing the 313 fleet for Coastway duties.

    Comment by Ed | November 23, 2017 | Reply

  6. For a start I haven’t seen a Class 707 for some weeks. I wonder if something is up.

    The lack of toilets is one reason SWR don’t want the trains, as they have said all their trains will have toilets. I know Crossrail trains don’t have toilets but they have them on most platforms and any way it’s a frequent service.

    Certainly, something needs to be done at Falmer.

    Also the 313s must be on their last wheels!

    I think we’ll see a major train reorganisation along the South Coast and I doubt the 707s will figure. But what about the 379s, that GA are taking off lease? They’re the joker in the pack!

    Comment by AnonW | November 23, 2017 | Reply

  7. I’ve always assumed that the 313s are destined for the scrap head once the current TFGN franchise ends in 2021, but even with the glut of new or nearly new trains this might be a false assumption. Comfort wise they are OK. The main differences from a passenger perspective when compared to 377s is the aforementioned lack of toilets and also lack of air conditioning.

    Operationally they must be challenging however and I’d imagine Southern are keen to get rid of them. For instance, another issue that Southern have is if they run them in 6 car formation they cannot call at stations with short platforms due to lack of SDO.

    I hadn’t considered the 379s as I was not familiar with them, but it seems they are also a fleet of 30. They wouldn’t offer as much of a capacity boost as the 707s, but 4 cars is still better than 3, and probably still more than adequate for everyday use. WRT Falmer, at present the current off peak service is one hourly shuttle between Brighton and Lewes and 2 TPH between Brighton and Seaford worked by 313s. There is also an hourly service to Hastings which I think is worked by a 377, so 13 cars per hour in each direction. Using 379s, adding an extra Brighton/Lewes shuttle and splitting the Ashford service as planned (which does not currently stop at Falmer, but will once split) will provide 24 cars per hour, so a near doubling of timetabled capacity. They’d probably still need to strengthen some services on match days, but nowhere near to the extent they do now.

    The 379s don’t currently have 3rd rail traction fitted, but if that can be added easily, then yes, it does seem like they might be a good candidate to replace the 313s given the fleet size, availability date and of course toilets.

    Even if they don’t end up on the Coastway routes, I cannot imagine the 707s and 379s will not find new homes. The political embarrassment of 2 newish fleets sitting idle would be too much.

    Comment by Ed | November 24, 2017 | Reply

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