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.

© David Glasspool

August 2001

A north easterly view from Hook Green Road shows freshly ballasted track, but the catenary masts had yet to receive wires. Fawkham Junction is a mile behind the camera. © Mike Glasspool

5th February 2004

The original Gravesend West branch single-arch bridge can be seen behind the new structure in this westward view. This was scheduled for demolition as part of the work here, but local residents on the west side of the bridge successfully protested for it to remain, allowing it to act as a sound barrier. © David Glasspool

10th August 2005

A continent-bound Eurostar is seen coming off the junction (which is hidden by the trees in the background). Behind the formation is the former track bed of the Gravesend West branch. A new track bed was laid parallel with it in order to slew the curve from Fawkham Junction, to avoid a turn which was too tight. © David Glasspool