Chafford Hundred

With about eighty-five passenger services calling on a typical weekday, is this Britain’s busiest single-platform station? Chafford Hundred is situated 21-miles from Fenchurch Street via Upminster, upon a 6¾-mile-long single-track line that links the latter with Grays in Essex. The line’s origins are much older than Chafford Hundred, having been opened by the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway on Friday, 1st July 1892, a station at [South] Ockendon being in use from the outset.

In March 1988, regional newspapers reported on proposals for the then new Essex town of Chafford Hundred, the name of which was adopted from a historic parish of Thurrock. A £300 million development of 5,000 homes, schools, shops, and a railway station was planned to take place on a 600-acre site, much of which encompassed exhausted quarry workings. The entire project was funded by a consortium of Blue Circle Industries PLC, Pelham Homes Ltd, and Pearson PLC, under the name "Chafford Hundred Ltd", and the first homes had been completed by October 1989.

Railway works in connection with the housing development began in 1990. These involved boring a tunnel through the chalk ridge underneath the railway to create a road underpass between Chafford Hundred and the then soon-to-be completed "Lakeside" shopping centre. This resulted in the excavation of 12,000 tons of spoil and the insertion of a reinforced concrete box of 5,000 ton weight, measuring 54-feet by 31-feet by 98-feet (16.75 metres by 9.5 metres by 30 metres) and capable of supporting a layer of chalk and railway weighing 5,000 tons. The contract for the works was awarded to "AEB Jacked Structures Ltd", the company of which used mechanical excavators to remove chalk from the railway embankment. The concrete box was then pushed into place using a series of powerful hydraulic jacks that moved the mammoth structure at a rate of 6.6-feet (2-metres) per day. This construction method was seen as preferable by British Rail (BR), because it allowed trains to continue running during the works, albeit at reduced speed (ref: Brentwood & Ongar Gazette, Friday, 14th September 1990).

Construction of Chafford Hundred station started in late 1994, on the eastern side of the railway. A single platform, capable of accommodating twelve-vehicle train formations, was built straddling the aforementioned road underpass. An attractive single-storey main building of red brick construction, demonstrating a symmetrical appearance, gabled facade, and a hipped slated roof, was erected at the southern end of the platform surface. Built for Railtrack (BR’s successor), the station’s £1,000,000 cost was funded by "Chafford Hundred Ltd" and took eight months to build, which included the provision of a 150-space car park. Chafford Hundred station came into use on 26th May 1995 and, as part of the opening ceremony, Class 310 No. 310058 was named "Chafford Hundred" in commemoration (ref: The Railway Magazine, July to August 1995).

Change was afoot early for Chafford Hundred. In 1998, as part of a franchise renegotiation between the "Office of Passenger Rail Franchising" (OPRAF) and the then operator of the London, Tilbury & Southend franchise, "Prism Rail", up to £700,000 was to be made available for the funding of a footbridge linking the station with Lakeside Shopping Centre (ref: The Railway Magazine, January 1999). Construction of the pedestrian link involved digging a path under the railway and then building a fully enclosed walkway — held up by a curved metal framework — across twelve lanes of road and into one of Lakeside's multi-storey car parks. The bridge was opened in the year 2000.

An increase in passenger numbers during the station’s first decade of use called for expansion. The main building was more than doubled in size by a southward extension, the latter of which was designed in sympathy with the existing structure. The extension comprised a light and airy glazed circulating area underneath a pitched roof — similar in style, but larger than the entrance of 1995 — which covered the subway entrance leading to the bridge for Lakeside Shopping Centre. The station’s extension was formally opened in early September 2006 (ref: The Railway Magazine, December 2006).

Finally, as part of a £17 million scheme to upgrade and improve stations across the "c2c" franchise covering the London, Tilbury, and Southend lines, a refurbishment of the booking hall and waiting areas at Chafford Hundred began in 2019 (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 2019).

6th May 2001

Stanier "Black Five" Class 5 No. 45407 (masquerading as No. 45157) is seen passing northwards through Chafford Hundred with one of two round-trip special workings between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness. The curved bridge framework that carries the pedestrian link between the station and Lakeside Shopping Centre can just be seen in the right background. The main station building is hidden behind the curved-roof waiting shelter seen upon the platform. © David Glasspool Collection