Fawkham Junction

This is a location which has performed two railway functions in the past, although both are now sadly defunct. The first incarnation of Fawkham Junction was formally commissioned on 17th April 1886 as the point of divergence between the London Chatham & Dover Railway's main line to the Kent coast and this same company's 4¾-mile-long double-track branch line to Gravesend. Passenger traffic along the branch line ceased on 3rd August 1953, goods traffic through to Gravesend halted on 24th March 1968, but until 1976, a 2½-mile stretch of the line was retained between Fawkham Junction and Southfleet, an active coal bunker being established at the latter. No longer required, the track along this section of the disused branch line remain in situ for over two decades, only to be lifted when work commenced on preparing Fawkham Junction for a second use: that of acting as a feeder to Section 1 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

On 28th September 1998 it was announced that Railtrack shareholders had voted overwhelmingly to support a deal made between the company, Union Railways, and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). As part of the agreement, Union Railways would build a new link line between the "Chatham" main line at Fawkham (Longfield) and Cheriton (Folkestone), then subsequently sell it on to Railtrack when it was finished in 2003. Union Railways was to receive Government assistance in raising the finance for the line, it being unable to do this alone.

The first signs of building work in connection with this link line began on 5th October 1998. The prospect of re-using an existing course of a redundant railway, originally built for double track, played a major part in the decision making for where to locate a link line. The new route would, temporarily, form an integral part of the confirmed international route from North London, under the Thames and via the to-be-christened ''Ebbsfleet'', which partly explains the initial circuitous path it takes before assuming a south easterly heading into Kent. Of course, On leaving the ''Chatham'' line at Fawkham (or Longfield, as the parish is known), the line proceeds north east and continues in this direction beyond Southfleet. It then begins curving approximately half a mile from the A2 trunk road, the other side of which is the back of Gravesend, and then assumes a south easterly heading parallel with it, the point at which the line from Ebbsfleet joins.

The first services between Fawkham and Ashford ran on 28th September 2003, although the line through Ebbsfleet was not scheduled for completion until 2007. Previously, on 30th July of the same year, a test run with a Trans Manche Super Train over ''Section One'' saw a new all-time British railway speed record reached: 208 MPH. Until then, the highest British speed record on rails was held by the Advanced Passenger Train, this having reached 162.2 MPH in 1979. A slower test run had taken place on 8th July.

The 13th November 2007 marked the final day of scheduled passenger operation over the purpose-built connecting line between Fawkham and Southfleet Junctions; thereafter, services were routed onto ''Section 2'' of the CTRL, running from St Pancras and via Ebbsfleet International. With the complete closure of Waterloo International, the Class 373 formations no longer venture onto the third rail network, thus all sets are witnessing the removal of their shoe gear which, reportedly, will reduce the costs of maintenance. The Fawkham to Southfleet link line now faces an uncertain future; since Channel Tunnel freight is already comfortably accommodated on the route via Maidstone East, uses for the spur are hard to come by. This is compounded by the fact that the Class 92 fleet is not yet compatible with the CTRL's signalling system.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool


A westward view towards London shows the then new Fawkham Junction formation soon after ballasting. The rails on the left are those from the capital to Longfield (behind the camera) and the Medway Towns; the tracks curving sharply to the right form part of the spur to Southfleet Junction, the latter residing little under 3⅔-miles distant. Southfleet Junction was the point where "Section 2" of the CTRL from St Pancras via Stratford and Ebbsfleet International stations would eventually be met. The concrete-built electricity substation on the right dates from when the line was electrified to Gillingham in 1939. © David Glasspool Collection


Temporary metal fencing was erected across the then new tracks of the connecting spur soon after they were ballasted. The Connex-liveried 4-VEP in the background was approaching Longfield station, about half-a-mile away to the left. © David Glasspool Collection


An eastward view shows the double-track spur curving round to assume a north east heading to reach the CTRL at Southfleet Junction. © David Glasspool Collection


A north eastward view from Whitehill Road shows that the track bed was in place and the masts were up, but sleepers, rails, ballast, and wires were yet to come. The bridge in the background carries Hook Green Road, from which the next photograph was taken. © David Glasspool Collection