Sevington Yard

Sevington Sidings (Ashford)

On the evening of Monday, 17th March 1947, the Parliamentary Channel Tunnel Study Group of MPs was formed, their aim being to promote the building of a tunnel between Britain and France (ref: The Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror, 18th March 1947). Thereafter ensued a quarter of a century of planning, cost forecasting, traffic and receipt projections, feasibility studies, and geological surveys. By 1968 three key components of the Channel Tunnel project, located on the British side of the water, had been identified:

(Ref: Kentish Express, 6th December 1968)

A treaty between Britain and France was signed on 17th November 1973 at the Prime Minister’s country residence of Chequers, Buckinghamshire, which set the ball rolling for the boring of the first 1¼-miles (2-KM) at either ends of the route. The treaty would not go into full effect until after these initial works were completed, when British and French Governments would decide whether or not to go ahead with the estimated £486 million project (ref: The Scotsman, 19th November 1973). After two access tunnels beneath Shakespeare Cliff, Dover, had been completed — these of which led to the point at which the Channel Tunnel itself would start — the British Government announced their decision to abandon the project on 20th January 1975 (ref: Belfast News-Letter, 21st January 1975).

The early layout of the yard, prior to the laying of Sevington Loop. Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

The last, and successful, Channel Tunnel project — which formally began with the signing of the "Fixed Link Treaty" in Canterbury Cathedral on 12th February 1986 — resurfaced the possibility of a freight yard at Sevington. The "Channel Tunnel Group" had been granted the right to develop, finance, and operate the Channel Tunnel on 14th March 1986, and this organisation became "Eurotunnel" on 13th August of the same year. In the 23rd July 1987 edition of the Kentish Express, it was reported that Eurotunnel was seeking temporary permission — until the Channel Tunnel opened — to lay sidings at Sevington, to which materials would be delivered by rail and then taken onward to the Cheriton Terminal construction site by lorry. Half of the area of land identified at Sevington was to be used for laying sidings, the remainder for landscaping. Wooded areas and a three-metre-high embankment were to be created. In the 2nd October 1987 edition of the Dover Express, it was reported that Eurotunnel had been granted planning permission for the temporary railhead at Sevington. The company had applied for the site to have a lifespan of five years and have it up and running by May 1988. An estimated 6,000 tonnes of material would pass through the railhead daily, this increasing to 10,000 tonnes during the height of the works in 1990.

By 21st November 1987, "Translink JV" had commissioned a train-loading siding at Sevington (ref: Branch Line News No. 577, Branch Line Society, 7th January 1988). Translink JV was the British half of the Anglo-French engineering group "TransManche Link’’ (TML), the organisation of which was responsible for building the Channel Tunnel and terminals. By late March 1988, the track had been laid in Sevington Yard (also known as "Sevington Sidings"); the area was situated on the southern side of the "up" main line, 1½-miles south east of Ashford station. The yard was provided with a single trailing connection with the "up" main line, this of which was protected by a gate. A new siding was also laid at Snowdown, adjacent to the derelict former colliery site, to enable spoil trains to run from there to Sevington (ref: RCTS’ The Railway Observer, August 1988). Colliery spoil was used to in-fill the site of Cheriton Shuttle Terminal and, in 1988, two trains daily ran between Snowdown and Sevington, transporting 15,000 tonnes of material per week. Sevington also received quarry waste from Whatley in Somerset, and sea-dredged aggregate from the Hoo Peninsula at Cliffe (ref: Dover Express, 30th September 1988).

5th May 1995

Sevington Loop, laid in 1993, is just visible in the background of this London-bound view, which shows Class 373 set Nos. 3214 and 3213 heading towards the Chunnel. Evident is Sevington Yard’s single trailing connection with the loop, protected by a gate. © David Glasspool Collection

In 1993, in connection with Chunnel works, an electrified loop — about 960-yards-long — was laid adjacent to the "up" main line at Sevington, immediately north west of TML's sidings. The connection with the sidings was revised at this time, so they fed off the then new loop, rather than directly off the "up" main. On 10th December 1993, TML handed the Channel Tunnel over to Eurotunnel, and on 6th May of the following year was the formal opening ceremony. In the 23rd April 1994 edition of the Branch Line Society’s Branch Line News, it was reported that the sidings of Sevington Yard were disused but still intact by mid-March of that year. The 9th March 1996 edition of the same publication noted that Sevington Siding was taken out of use on Sunday, 12th November 1995, until further notice.

In connection with the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (today’s "High Speed 1") — the Act of which had received Royal Assent on 18th December 1996 — Sevington Yard was reopened in 1999 as an aggregate site. The first arrival was on 6th December of that year, which comprised Class 59 No. 59101 hauling twelve high-capacity box wagons (ref: The Railway Magazine, February 2000). At the time, the intention was to have a loaded train arrive at 10:00, with the subsequent empties departing at 14:30, and traffic to the site would be handled jointly by "English, Welsh & Scottish Railway" (EWS) and "Mendip Rail". The Sevington service was an onward portion of the then daily Merehead to Acton working (ref: The Railway Magazine, February 2000). A second daily aggregate service between Merehead and Sevington soon commenced, which included a return working to Westbury (ref: The Railway Magazine, February 2000).

Plan showing the revised connection with Sevington Loop and that the western portion of the original site had been absorbed into a lorry park. Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

In May 2008, Kent County Council granted "Robert Brett & Sons Limited" planning permission for the development of a permanent aggregate importation terminal and waste transfer station at Sevington (ref: Sevington High Output Operating Base Discussion, Kent County Council, 7th December 2016). Later, in June 2016, Network Rail received approval to temporarily use the waste portion of the site as a "High Output Operating Base". Essentially, this meant that Network Rail could use Sevington as a base when undertaking track maintenance in the area. The permission allowed for the construction of temporary structures at Sevington Sidings in connection with Network Rail’s activities, in addition to the storage and loading/unloading of ballast (ref: Sevington High Output Operating Base Discussion, Kent County Council, 7th December 2016).

15th March 2023

Today, the location is formally known as “Sevington Sidings”, although has also been referred to as “Sevington Yard”, particularly in the early years. A southward view captures wooden-sleeper track and rails that have not been used for a while. A daily weekday return working from Hoo Junction exists in the schedule, but only runs as required. The sidings are flanked by high screens for both noise and visual purposes. © David Glasspool

15th March 2023

A public right of way in the form of a restricted byway crosses the throat of the yard, this of which goes by the name of “Sevington Crossing”. The sidings are to the left and protected by palisade fencing, inserted to which are gates that open up when necessary for the passage of rail traffic. © David Glasspool

15th March 2023

A northward view from the byway shows the sidings converging, after which they make a trailing connection with Sevington Loop, the latter of which feeds off the “up” main line. Another palisade gate, in the distance, is closed across the sidings, separating them from the running lines. The tall green-coloured barricade on the right was a planning permission requirement. © David Glasspool