London, Tilbury and Southend Railway

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London, Tilbury and Southend Railway
357014 at Upminster Bridge.JPG
OwnerNetwork Rail
LocaleGreater London
TerminiLondon Fenchurch Street
TypeCommuter rail, heavy rail
SystemNational Rail
Depot(s)East Ham
Rolling stockClass 357
Class 387
Line length39 miles 40 chains (63.6 km)
(main line via Basildon)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV AC
Operating speed75 mph (121 km/h)
Route map
London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.png
(Click to expand)

The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (LTSR), also known as Essex Thameside, is a commuter railway line on the British railway system. It connects Fenchurch Street station, in central London, with destinations in east London and Essex, including Barking, Upminster, Basildon, Grays, Tilbury, Southend and Shoeburyness.

Its main users are commuters travelling to and from London, particularly the City of London which is served by Fenchurch Street, and areas in east London including the Docklands financial district via London Underground and Docklands Light Railway connections at Limehouse and West Ham. The line is also heavily used by leisure travellers, as it and its branches serve a number of seaside resorts, shopping areas and countryside destinations. Additionally, the route provides an artery for freight traffic to and from the port of Tilbury, Dagenham Dock and London Gateway Port near Stanford-Le-Hope.

The railway was authorised in 1852 and the first section was opened in 1854 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company, which was a joint venture between the London and Blackwall Railway and the Eastern Counties Railway companies. The route was extended in phases and partnerships were formed with the Midland Railway and District Railway to provide through-services.

The railway serves three main routes. The main line runs from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness via Basildon over a distance of 39 miles 40 chains (63.6 km). A loop line between Barking and Pitsea provides an alternative route via Rainham (Essex), Grays and Tilbury. Finally, there is a short branch line connecting the main line at Upminster with the loop line at Grays via Ockendon. The line has a maximum speed limit of 75 mph (121 km/h), although the Class 357 and Class 387 electric trains which run on it are capable of speeds of 100 mph (161 km/h) and 110 mph (177 km/h) respectively.

The line forms part of Network Rail's strategic route 6.[1] It is classified as a London and South East commuter line.[2] Passenger services form the Essex Thameside franchise that is currently operated by train operating company c2c.


Initial construction[edit]

The construction of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway line was authorised by Parliament on 17 June 1852.[3] The first section, built by Peto and Grissell, was opened between Forest Gate Junction on the Eastern Counties Railway line and Tilbury, via Barking and Grays on 13 April 1854.[4] Services initially ran from Fenchurch Street and Bishopsgate stations over existing lines to Stratford and Forest Gate Junction.[4] Further extensions opened in late 1854 to Horndon, to Leigh-on-Sea on 1 July 1855 and finally to Southend on 1 March 1856.[3]

In 1858 a more direct route from Barking to London was constructed through Bromley, Plaistow and East Ham,[4] connecting with the London and Blackwall Extension Railway at Bow, and the service from Bishopsgate was withdrawn. Under the management of civil engineer Arthur Lewis Stride, the line was extended from Southend to Shoeburyness in 1884.[4] A more direct route from Barking to Pitsea via Upminster was built between 1885 and 1888, completing the current main route.[4] A single-track branch was constructed between Romford and Grays via Upminster in 1892–93.

Route development[edit]

LTSR canopy support at East Ham (no longer served by main line trains)

In 1902 the Whitechapel and Bow Railway was constructed as a joint venture with the District Railway, connecting the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway at Bow with the District Railway at Whitechapel. The connection allowed through-running of District Railway trains from the tunnels under central London to provide local services to Upminster from 2 June 1902.[5] When the Metropolitan, District and Whitechapel & Bow Railway lines were electrified, an additional pair of tracks was installed between Bow and East Ham and the service was cut back to there from 30 September 1905.[5] The electrified tracks were extended to Barking and that section opened on 1 April 1908.[5] Delayed by World War I,[4] the electric tracks were eventually extended to Upminster and District line services started to and from there on 12 September 1932.[5]

The London Plan Working Party Report of 1949 envisaged as its Route G the LTSR electrified and diverted away from Fenchurch Street to Bank and onward through the Waterloo & City line tunnels to Waterloo and its suburban lines.[6] Of course, the Waterloo & City tunnels would have had to be bored out to main-line size for this proposal to succeed. However, electrification went ahead from 1961 to 1962 under British Railways[4] and direct passenger services from Bromley, Plaistow, Upton Park, East Ham, Becontree, Dagenham and Hornchurch to Fenchurch Street were withdrawn. With the completion of electrification the remaining through steam services from St Pancras to LTSR destinations were removed.

The line was re-signalled between 1958 and 1961, starting in the Barking area in April 1958 and completed in August 1961 with the section between Purfleet and West Thurrock junction.[7] Semaphore signals were replaced with 3- and 4-aspect searchlight signals.

In 1972 the British Railways Board (BRB) proposed to construct a 1-mile freight-only spur line from the railway at Bowers Gifford between Pitsea and Benfleet to East Haven creek and thence to the proposed oil refineries on Canvey Island, to allow petroleum products to be exported from the refineries.[8] Once the layout of the proposed refineries had been established, in early 1974 the BRB sought powers to extend the spur line a further mile from the creek to the site of the refineries through the British Railways Bill 1974. The Bill was subject to considerable opposition in parliament, furthermore a public inquiry proposed to revoke planning permission for one of the refineries.[9] The proposal was abandoned and the BRB removed the spur line proposal from the 1974 Bill.[10]

In 1974 a station was opened to serve the new town of Basildon and in 1995 a station was built at Chafford Hundred to serve the new community there as well as Lakeside Shopping Centre. Platforms were re-established and opened at West Ham in 1999 to provide interchange with the extended Jubilee line.

Former stations[edit]

The following stations were once served by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, its predecessors and successors.[11][12]

Former LTS Stations
Station Location (miles & chains from Fenchurch Street station) Date Opened Date Closed Notes
Main line
Minories c. 0.18 6 July 1840 24 October 1853 Original terminus of London and Blackwall Railway
Leman Street c. 0.40 1 June 1877 7 July 1941
Cannon Street Road c. 0.60 21 August 1842 December 1848
Shadwell c. 1.10 1 October 1840 7 July 1941 DLR station opened 31 August 1987
Burdett Road c. 2.26 11 September 1871 21 April 1944
Bromley-by-Bow 3. 18 31 March 1858 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
Plaistow 4. 45 31 March 1858 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
Upton Park 5.28 1 September 1877 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
East Ham 6.18 31 March 1858 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
Becontree 9. 48 28 June 1926 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
Dagenham East 11.25 1 May 1885 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
Hornchurch 13.56 1 May 1885 15 June 1962 LUL platforms remain in use
Leigh-on-Sea (original site) c. 33.0 1 July 1855 31 December 1933
Tilbury Loop
Purfleet Rifle Range Halt About ¾ mile north west of Purfleet station October 1921 31 May 1948
Tilbury Riverside 22.45 13  April 1854 30 November 1992
Tilbury Marine 15 May 1927 1 May 1932
Low Street 24.16 July 1861 5 June 1967


Electrification of the line and the connecting branches, under various system of traction current, took place in stages as follows:

November 1949

  • Fenchurch Street to Bow Junction, electrified at 1.5 kV DC as part of the Great Eastern (Liverpool Street to Shenfield) electrification.[13][14] Fenchurch Street Platforms 1 and 2 only and former slow (south) lines to Stepney East (now Limehouse) then to Bow Junction via Gas Factory Junction. Abandoned before completion, later wired for emergency use.[15]

November 1960

  • Fenchurch Street to Bow Junction converted from 1.5 kV DC to 6.25 kV AC.[13][15]

November 1961



  • Barking Station Junction to Barking Station Platform 1, electrified at 25 kV AC.[11]

Ownership and management[edit]

LMS 3-cylinder 2-6-4T No. 2500 built specifically for the LTSR section at the National Railway Museum in York in 2003

The railway was initially jointly promoted by the Eastern Counties Railway and London and Blackwall Railway and was leased for 21 years to Peto, Brassey and Betts.[17] The lease expired in 1875, leaving the LTSR to take over operation itself.[3] The Midland Railway and LTSR jointly constructed the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway, which enabled through-running of trains between St. Pancras and the Tilbury docks from 1894 and Southend from 1895.[4] In 1912 the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway was vested in the Midland Railway following an Act of 7 August 1912, though Midland did not assume full control until 1 October 1920.[3] Upon company grouping in 1923, the line became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.[4] That organisation was nationalised into British Railways in 1948, the line becoming part of the London Midland Region, however, in 1949 the LTSR line became part of the Eastern Region of British Railways.[4] The line was electrified in the late 1950s.[3] In 1986 the route was transferred to the Network SouthEast sector of British Rail. During this period, it was known as Network SouthEast's "misery line".[18] On privatisation in 1996, ownership passed to Railtrack and Prism Rail took over operations of the franchise, marketing the route as LTS Rail.[4] Ownership passed to Network Rail in 2002. Prism Rail were bought out by National Express in 2000 and in 2002 the line was rebranded as c2c.

Rolling stock[edit]

The line was known for its use of 4-4-2 tank engines which were later displaced by 2-6-4Ts after it had been absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923.

There were three engine sheds on the route, at Plaistow (which was also the location of the works), Tilbury and Shoeburyness. Shoeburyness replaced an engine shed at Southend Central when the line was extended in early 1884.[19]

After electrification in 1962 most services were operated by British Railways Class 302 electric multiple units (EMUs), which were withdrawn in 1998, leaving Class 310s, Class 312s and some loaned Class 317s in service until they were replaced by Class 357 EMUs. These are stabled at Shoeburyness and East Ham depots, where they are also maintained. There are now six Class 387 that are used at peak times to increase capacity.


A c2c Electrostar train on the LTSR

During the early 1990s proposals were put forward to convert the whole route into a guided busway, however these plans were quickly dismissed when British Rail announced a complete re-signalling of the line. Over the years the line had been used in an almost experimental fashion and contained a host of different signalling systems, such as geographical, WESTPAC and relay interlockings. In 1995 work began to replace everything from signals and point machines to whole junctions.

The main contractor for the work was GEC Alsthom which provided a Mark 3 Solid State Interlocking (SSI) system, with SEMA providing the IECC element at Upminster that replaced all signal boxes on the whole line. Main line running signals mostly became four-aspect colour lights (replacing searchlight signals amongst others), all point machines were replaced with HW2000 machines and the whole line had a complete fibre optic network installed. All level crossings were renewed with automatic barriers to be CCTV-controlled by a designated workstation at Upminster.

The main line between East Ham and Shoeburyness was also bi-directionally signalled (with three-aspect signalling) along most parts, with the bi-directional section alternating from one track to the other between certain stations, to provide maximum flexibility for continuing operations should disruption occur.

The line was re-signalled over the Easter weekend of 1996 when all the signal boxes from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness (via Basildon) were switched out and control was transferred to Upminster IECC. This was later followed over the 1996 August bank holiday when Upminster took control from the remaining boxes on the Tilbury Loop.


Station Local authority London fare zone Usagea Openedb Service frequencyc Interchange/notes
Main line
London Fenchurch Street City of London 1 18.399 1854 8 tph London Underground (Circle and District lines, from Tower Hill); Docklands Light Railway (from Tower Gateway)
Limehouse Tower Hamlets 2 3.505 1854 8 tph Docklands Light Railway
West Ham Newham 3 10.554 1901d 8 tph London Underground (District, Hammersmith & City and Jubilee lines); Docklands Light Railway
Barking Barking & Dagenham 4 13.473 1854 8 tph Tilbury loop; London Underground (District and Hammersmith & City lines); London Overground (Gospel Oak to Barking Line)
Upminster Havering 6 5.962 1885 6 tph Ockendon branch; London Underground (District line); London Overground (Romford to Upminster Line)
West Horndon Brentwood outside zones 0.416 1888 2 tph
Laindon Basildon outside zones 2.287 1888 4 tph
Basildon Basildon outside zones 3.233 1974 4 tph
Pitsea Basildon outside zones 1.270 1855 4 tph Tilbury loop
Benfleet Castle Point outside zones 3.680 1855 6 tph
Leigh-on-Sea Southend-on-Sea outside zones 2.232 1856 6 tph In 1934, the current Leigh on Sea station replaced the original one, and Chalkwell station was ai
Chalkwell Southend-on-Sea outside zones 1.968 1934 6 tph
Westcliff Southend-on-Sea outside zones 1.299 1895 6 tph
Southend Central Southend-on-Sea outside zones 3.396 1856 6 tph
Southend East Southend-on-Sea outside zones 1.926 1932 4 tph
Thorpe Bay Southend-on-Sea outside zones 0.885 1884 4 tph
Shoeburyness Southend-on-Sea outside zones 0.746 1884 4 tph
Ockendon branch
Ockendon Thurrock G 1.054 1892 2 tph
Chafford Hundred Lakeside Thurrock G 2.817 1993 2 tph
Tilbury loop
Dagenham Dock Barking & Dagenham 5 0.401 1908 2 tph
Rainham Havering 6 1.756 1854 2 tph
Purfleet Thurrock G 0.673 1854 2 tph
Grays Thurrock G 4.053 1854 4 tph Ockendon branch
Tilbury Town Thurrock outside zones 1.173 1854 2 tph
East Tilbury Thurrock outside zones 0.443 1936 2 tph
Stanford-le-Hope Thurrock outside zones 1.109 1854 2 tph
  • ^a Number of passenger entries/exits in millions in 2017/18[20]
  • ^b Year station was first served by the LTSR (could have been served earlier by another railway)
  • ^c Typical off-peak Monday-Saturday service frequency in trains per hour (tph)[21]
  • ^d Service suspended in 1913 but reintroduced in 1999

Route via Stratford and Liverpool Street[edit]

The main terminus of the LTSR is Fenchurch Street

When necessary, due to engineering work or service disruption, trains can be diverted at Barking over the Gospel Oak to Barking Line and then the Great Eastern Main Line to call at Stratford and Liverpool Street instead of the usual LTSR route via West Ham. Trains diverted at Barking, having passed Stratford, can also rejoin the LTSR before Limehouse and then continue to Fenchurch Street. This latter route is not currently used in the standard timetable, however at weekends there are two trains per hour to and from Shoeburyness that call at Stratford and Liverpool Street.

From May 1985 to May 2007, the standard weekday service after 22:30 operated out of Liverpool Street rather than Fenchurch Street.[22] Currently, this is only used during weekends, when some Basildon services are diverted into Liverpool Street, as well as during engineering works that prohibit access to Fenchurch Street.

Proposed developments[edit]

2007 proposals[edit]

The Greater Anglia RUS, published in December 2007, outlined a number of developments intended for the LTSR. In the medium term, 2009–14, this included minor infrastructure works and additional rolling stock to allow all main line peak-service trains to be extended to 12-carriage formation. Also included is the proposal for the extension of platforms on the Tilbury loop and Ockendon branch to handle 12 carriages, to allow all main line peak-service trains to be extended to 8 or 12-carriage formation. In the longer term, intentions are to continue the lengthening of peak trains to 12-carriage formation.[23] A new railway station, Beam Park railway station, was proposed at Beam Reach, between Dagenham Dock and Rainham, near Marsh Way road and CEME Innovation Centre (between A13 and A1306).[24][25]

London Gateway link[edit]

Work on the London Gateway deep water port, which will be linked to the line, started in February 2010. The port is expected to handle 3.5 million TEU annually. The first stage of the dock opened in 2013 and it will be fully completed over the next[timeframe?] ten to 15 years.[26][27]


Of the original LTSR, 4-4-2T number 80 survives as a stationary exhibit at Bressingham Steam Museum in Norfolk. Ex-LTSR BR Standard Class 4 80079, which was involved in the 1958 Dagenham East rail crash, is preserved on the Severn Valley Railway in Shropshire. Another ex LTSR locomotive BR 42500 is the sole remaining member of the 37 3 cylinder 2-6-4 tank engines built by the LMS in the 1930s for the LTSR. It is preserved in LMSR livery at the National Railway Museum in York.

Shipping activity[edit]

Until 1855, the ferry crossing between Tilbury and Gravesend in Kent was operated by sailing and rowing boats; however, in that year, steam driven vessels were introduced on the River Thames crossing. On formation of the LTSR, that operation became part of its activities.[28]

Responsibility for the ferry operation was transferred to the Midland Railway Company and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1912 and 1923 respectively.

Particulars of the ferry service and the vessels employed are listed at Gravesend-Tilbury Ferry.


  1. ^ "Route 6 North London Line and Thameside" (PDF). Network Rail Route Plans 2006. Network Rail. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 September 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Route 6 North London Line and Thameside" (PDF). Route Plans 2009. Network Rail. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e McCarthy, Colin; McCarthy, David (2009). Railways of Britain – London North of the Thames. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-7110-3346-7.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "London, Tilbury and Southend Railway" (PDF), Local Studies Information Sheets, Barking and Dagenham London Borough Council, 2008, archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2015, retrieved 21 February 2016
  5. ^ a b c d Douglas Rose (1999). The London Underground: A diagrammatic history (7 ed.). Douglas Rose.
  6. ^ J. Glover, "London's Underground", 7th edition, Shepperton, Ian Allan, 1991, p.61.
  7. ^ "LTS signalling notices".
  8. ^ British Railways Act 1972
  9. ^ House of Commons Debates 23 July 1974 Vol 877 cc 1429-1504
  10. ^ House of Commons Debates 14 November 1974 Vol 881 cc 561-2
  11. ^ a b Brailsford, Martyn (2016). Railway Track Diagrams Book 2 Eastern. Frome: Trackmaps. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-9549866-8-1.
  12. ^ Brown, Joe (2015). London Railway Atlas. Hersham: Ian Allan. pp. 27–30, 43–46. ISBN 9780711038196.
  13. ^ a b c Railway Safety and Standards Board (2007). Further Electrification of Britain's Railway Network. London: RSSB. pp. F2.
  14. ^ Instructions for the working of electric trains, Liverpool Street & Fenchurch Street to Shenfield, British Railways Eastern Region (September 1949), Published by the Great Eastern Railway Society (2002) ISBN 1 85622 230 6
  15. ^ a b c Connor, Joe (1998). Fenchurch Street to Barking. Midhurst: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-901706-20-6.
  16. ^ Modern Railways, May 2010, Forum p.35
  17. ^ Hamilton Ellis (1953). The Midland Railway. Ian Allan Ltd.
  18. ^ Kardas, Handel, ed. (July 1992). "BR World: First step to LT&S resignalling". Railway World. Vol. 53 no. 627. p. 14.
  19. ^ Kay, Peter (1996). The London Tilbury and Southend Railway - a history of the line Volume 1. Teignmouth,UK: Peter Kay. p. 37. ISBN 1 899890 10 6.
  20. ^ "Station usage". Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  21. ^
  22. ^ White, H. P. (1987). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. 3: Greater London (3rd ed.). David St John Thomas.
  23. ^ "Greater Anglia Route Utilisation Strategy" (PDF). Network Rail. December 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  24. ^ "Beam Park set for 2,000 new homes and c2c rail station".
  25. ^ "Boris's blueprint gets a qualified 'yes'". Romford Recorder. 24 December 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2009.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "New Business for London Gateway's Giant Cranes". Pacific Maritime Magazine. 1 March 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  27. ^ "London Gateway port, Essex". Local Transport Today. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  28. ^ Haws, Duncan (1993). Merchant Fleets – Britain's Railway Steamers – Eastern & North Western + Zeeland and Stena. Hereford: TCL Publications. p. 124. ISBN 0-946378-22-3.
  • Welch, H.D. (1963) [1951]. The Oakwood Library of Railway History. No. 8:The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. The Oakwood Press. p. 38.

External links[edit]