The Marshlink Line is the name given to services on the railway line linking Ashford with Hastings in the South East of England. The line was part of an original proposal by a company named the Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Company to extend its coast route to Hastings. The South Eastern Railway eventually built the line, thereby renewing a local rivalry between itself and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway; the line was opened on 13 February 1851. Recommended for closure by Dr. Beeching in 1963, the route has survived various attempts to axe services completely, and stations remained unmodernised and gas-lit well into the 1970s. Services for certain stations on the line have now been reduced to an absolute minimum.
The line is single track between Appledore and Ore. Trains can pass each other at Rye station, which is double tracked. Several stations have staggered platforms: passengers cross the line from the end of one platform to the end of the other, thus avoiding a footbridge.
The line is not electrified, with the exception of Hastings to Ore. This small section was electrified to provide for carriage sidings (there was no space at Hastings) as part of the "East Coastway" electrification of July 1935.
The line has an active rail users group called "The Marsh Link Action Group".
Description of route
The towns on the route are listed below:
- Ashford International
- Ham Street: was Ham Street & Orlestone
- Appledore: the station's formal name includes (Kent) in its title, although Appledore (Devon) station closed in 1917
- here the double line becomes single track
- here there was, until 1962, the branch to Rye Harbour, opened in 1854
- Three Oaks
- Ore Tunnel 
- here the line is doubled and electrified (originally for access to the carriage sidings at Ore but since removal of these sidings they are just used by service trains)
- Mount Pleasant Tunnel 
Passenger services are operated by Southern
, as part of its East Coastway services
. The line is no longer a separate part of the network. Trains run hourly between Ashford and Brighton
, stopping only at Ham Street, Appledore and Rye on the Marshlink Line
. Ore has separate hourly trains to Brighton. All other stations are served by occasional local services.
Before December 2005 there was one train per hour in each direction between Hastings and Ashford, stopping at every station.
This line is one of the few in South-East England
not to be electrified. Consequently, services are operated using British Rail Class 171
"Turbostar" diesel multiple units
. These replaced the elderly Class 205
and Class 207
units in mid-2004. When Class 171 units are not available a class 201
diesel-electric unit (1001) owned by Hastings Diesels Ltd stands in. This unit will be fitted with Central Door Locking so it can continue running services.