Swale Halt

A boom in car travel throughout the 1960s meant that, by 1970, the Kings Ferry vertical-lifting bridge was already carrying much more traffic than it was designed for. The delays caused were exacerbated by the fact that boats took priority over cars, and every time a vessel needed to pass, a total of three minutes were spent raising and lowering the lifting span to its full extent, in addition to the time spent waiting for a boat to go through. Consequently, support for a high-level bridge quickly gathered momentum, but three decades would pass until a solution materialised. It was not until 29th April 2004 that construction work began on a new £100,000,000 fixed-link 115-foot high road bridge. The new structure took two years to complete, being built on a site north of the existing bridge, and used 2,380 tonnes of concrete. It is estimated that 26,000 vehicles cross the four-lane bridge each day, which opened on 3rd July 2006. The bridge of 1960 remained, of course for railway operation, and it also retained its road section as an alternative route.

In the meantime, the station at Swale had witnessed changes; its ‘’Halt’’ suffix had been dropped, and during the 1980s, the platform became completely exposed to the elements with the loss of the waiting shelter. Declining fortunes for the station seemed to be on the horizon in 2004, when the now disbanded Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) was preparing the South Eastern Trains franchise for re-letting. The franchise plans outlined either the complete closure of Swale, or the reduction of its trains to a somewhat ridiculous service of merely one train each way each week. Similar proposals had also come to light over the rural halt at Beltring, on the Medway Valley Line. Whilst a new franchise began on 1st April 2005, the aforementioned plans have not been implemented, and Swale retains a half hourly weekday service in each direction.

20th June 2007

A batch of rust-covered rails reside in the foreground of this Sheppey-bound view. A barricade separates both rail and road. No conductor rail exists on the lifting section of the bridge since no physical electrical connection can be made. However, since units have electric pick-up shoes on both front and rear trailers, no current is lost. © David Glasspool

20th June 2007

Another view towards the bridge on the same day, but this time from the platform, reveals the ''escape lane''. This has been in existence since the opening of the site in 1960, and any runaway trains are diverted into this short spur and slowed down by a thick layer of gravel. © David Glasspool

20th June 2007

After Swale, on the way back to Sittingbourne, the route becomes double-track. Freights are restricted to 45 MPH, but passenger services can travel up to 70 MPH on this stretch of line. © David Glasspool

28th December 2016

The standard off-peak shuttle service between Sittingbourne and Sheerness-on-Sea, formed by a single Class 466 unit, is seen trundling over the Swale. The branch line enjoys two direct trains to London in the morning peak and the same number of return workings in the evening rush hour. © Wayne Walsh