Region logo from 1965 to 1992
|Franchise(s)||Not subject to franchising (1 January 1948 – 31 December 1992)|
|Main Region(s)||London, South of England|
|Parent company||British Rail|
The Southern Region was a region of British Railways from 1948 until 1992 when railways were re-privatised. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s. The region covered south London, southern England and the south coast, including the busy commuter belt areas of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. The region was largely based upon the former Southern Railway area.
The Southern Railway was still comparatively profit-making despite World War II, thanks to its extensive third rail DC electrification and the intensive service patterns this allowed for. However, large-scale investment was required in the infrastructure of all of the "Big 4" companies, including the Southern.
The Transport Act 1947 provided for the nationalisation of all heavy rail systems in the UK to allow for this investment and, in theory, to improve the rights of railway workers. The railway companies were amalgamated into British Railways, part of the British Transport Commission, and six geographic and administrative regions were created out of the previous four companies. The Southern Railway, being relatively self-contained and operated largely by electric traction, was incorporated almost intact as the new Southern Region. The acting General Manager of the Southern Railway, John Elliot became the first Chief Regional Officer of the Southern Region.
The Southern Region also inherited some independent light railways, namely the East Kent Light Railway, the Kent and East Sussex Railway and the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway.
The Southern Region served southern London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and some areas of Dorset, Wiltshire and Berkshire. There was also an unelectrified service to parts of Devon and Cornwall, deep in what was largely Western Region territory, known colloquially as "The Withered Arm". The Southern Region also assumed operating responsibility for the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (although the provision of motive power fell to the London Midland Region). There were three operating divisions: Eastern, Central and Western which correspond approximately to the three current franchise areas.
The Region's chief stations in Central London were:
Other major stations in London included:
Outside Greater London the main stations were:
Southern and Western Regions had important interchanges at Reading and Exeter St Davids.
Underused stations such as those between East Grinstead and Lewes (a few of them later reopened with the Bluebell Railway), and most of the Isle of Wight's lines were closed in the 1950s.
The Beeching Axe severely cut route mileages of most regions but the Southern escaped major losses in the London area due to high passenger numbers on its frequent suburban services. The Axe did, however, close some country routes including the Cuckoo Line, the Cranleigh Line, the Steyning Line, the New Romney branch line and the Bexhill West Branch Line, plus goods yards including Deptford Wharf and Falcon Lane.
The lines in Devon and Cornwall were reclassified to the Western Region and the Southern's luxury trains, including the Atlantic Coast Express and the Brighton Belle, ceased in the 1960s and 70s.
The Snow Hill tunnel between Blackfriars and Farringdon closed in the 1960s, then later reopened as part of the earliest proposals of the Thameslink Programme. At the same time, Holborn Viaduct in central London closed in 1990, replaced with City Thameslink occupying the same site at an underground level. In the late 1990s, the Addiscombe Line and the West Croydon to Wimbledon line in south London were closed as these routes were replaced by Tramlink.
As a contrast, London Waterloo had been extensively refurbished and expanded to allow development of the Eurostar's Waterloo International railway station terminal. These platforms were closed after international services moved to St Pancras International in 2007. They were reopened respectively in 2017 and 2018 to increase capacity for suburban services.
The 1973 plan to build a tunnel under the English Channel also included plans to upgrade the infrastructure of the Southern Region between London and the Kent coast.
The plan assumed that the main railhead for "The Chunnel" would be at Ashford Kent station. To that end, rolling stock on the London to Dover via Ashford services was refurbished and heavier rails were laid to allow for longer trains and increased freight.
The 1973 tunnel plan was cancelled in 1975. The 1986 tunnel plan, which was approved and eventually built, used the same assumptions as the 1973 plan and Ashford Kent became Ashford International. By this time the Southern Region had been abolished.
Until 1980 the Southern Region operated the Night Ferry sleeper train (jointly with SNCF) from London Victoria to Paris and Brussels.
The Southern Railway and its predecessor companies have had little competition from London Transport south of the River Thames, where the subsoil was largely unsuitable for tunnelling and the mainline railways had extensive networks in place before the underground railways were developed.
London Underground's services were advanced over Southern Region (and other) tracks, either through dual-running or by ceding BR tracks to LUL. The LUL service to Wimbledon for instance slowly replaced the former Southern Region service. Tramlink, however, took over the West Croydon to Wimbledon Line in 2000.
The Waterloo & City line (nicknamed 'The Drain' by both staff and users), British Rail's only "Tube" service, was given over to London Underground upon privatisation BR in 1994.
The Southern Railway had adopted a plan to convert all lines east of Portsmouth to third rail electric traction in November 1946, to be completed by 1955.This plan would have included several branch and secondary lines that were subsequently closed such as the Bluebell and Steyning lines and also those secondary and branch lines in the area which were later dieselized such as the Marshlink and Oxted-Uckfield lines. This plan was, however, overtaken by the Transport Act 1947 which brought about the creation of British Railways.
The first new scheme to be adopted by the Southern Region was implemented in two Phases.
Owing to restricted clearances existing electric stock could not be used on the railways of the Isle of Wight. The surviving line between Ryde and Shanklin was therefore electrified in March 1967 using converted stock originally built for London Electric Railway in 1921.These became British Rail Classes 485 and 486. During the mid 1980s these were replaced by Class 483, which were also rebuilt from former London Underground stock.
The first phase of South Western Main Line (beyond the London suburbs) was electrified in 1967 and included the services from London Waterloo station to Southampton and Bournemouth. Electrification was extended all the way to Weymouth.
Existing electric stock could not be used on the line between Tonbridge and Hastings because of restricted clearances in four tunnels along the route. In 1986, the Hastings Line was electrified with single tracks through tunnels, enabling the use of generic rolling stock.
The former London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and the South Eastern Railway joint line between Croydon and Oxted, and the LB&SCR line to East Grinstead was electrified in 1987. But the branch line to Uckfield remains operated by diesel multiple units.
The Southern Region was abolished in 1992 because British Rail had decided to move from regional management to business sectors. The Region was divided between two of the new passenger businesses: Network SouthEast and InterCity.
When the British Rail passenger services were privatised in the 1990s the lines of the former region were divided between South West Trains, Thameslink, Island Line, Thames Trains, Gatwick Express, Connex South Central and Connex South Eastern.
In 2002 the South Central franchise was awarded to Govia and rebranded it "Southern". Next, the government took back control of the Connex South Eastern franchise and operated it as South Eastern Trains until it was franchised to Govia again as Southeastern in 2006.
As part of a general reorganisation of franchises, Island Line (on the Isle of Wight) was merged with South West Trains in 2005 to form the South Western franchise. Thameslink became part of First Capital Connect in 2006, and Gatwick Express was merged with Southern in 2007. The North Downs Line was took over by First Great Western, which in 2014 was renamed Great Western Railway. In the early years of its franchise, South West Trains reinstated 'West of England line' services beyond Exeter to Plymouth and Paignton, but these were cut back again (after only two years of operation) in order to strengthen its core service to Exeter.
Also in 2014, Govia had been selected to operate the new Thameslink Southern & Great Northern franchise (TSGN), including the South Central franchise Govia were already operating. On 26 July 2015 the South Central franchise ended and its services were incorporated into TSGN franchise; Govia announced that they would continue to use the Southern and Gatwick Express brands.
In August 2017, South Western Railway commenced operations in the South Western franchise.
At the time of its creation the Southern Region still had large numbers of steam locomotives The Southern Region also owned three locomotive works at Ashford, Brighton, and Eastleigh, two carriage works (Eastleigh and Lancing) and a wagon works at Ashford. Most of these closed before privatisation.
Unlike the other regions of British Railways, the Southern Region did not rush to withdraw its steam locomotives, instead using them right up to the completion of large-scale electrification. Consequently, the Southern Region was the last region in Britain to regularly use steam on high speed expresses and to have steam operated branch lines. Steam traction over the region finally ended in July 1967, to be replaced by a combination of multiple units and locomotives.
The region had ordered large fleets of slam-door electric multiple unit rolling stock with Mark 1 bodies in the 1950s and 1960s, but some Southern Railway-style units survived until the mid-1990s. By that time, much of the Region's slam door fleet reached the end of its design life of 35–40 years and was replaced by more reliable sliding- and plug-door stock - much of it after privatisation (mainly using Electrostar and Desiro trains) - although BR started to replace inner suburban trains from the 1970s.
A fleet of diesel-electric multiple units, also known by enthusiasts as "Thumpers" because of their distinctive engines, ran on non- or partly-electrified routes. These include the Oxted line, the Hastings line and the North Downs line.
Isle of Wight railway lines used elderly steam engines cascaded from the mainland for many years, but in 1966 the Southern Region acquired some redundant "Standard" tube stock from London Transport that varied build dates between 1923 and 1934. Most of the lines in the island had been closed in the 1950s and early 1960s, but the remaining route from Ryde to Shanklin was electrified to normal Southern Region third rail specification, and the "Standard" tube stock was converted (from LT's fourth rail to third) so that it could be run on it. In the late-1980s these trains were replaced by more redundant LT tube stock, this time dating from 1938.
Few Mark 2 multiple units were built but some driving trailers were introduced for Gatwick Airport express services, then operated by the InterCity brand.
British Rail built a fleet of electric units to operate Bournemouth services from Waterloo in the 1980s, with Mark 3 bodies and plug doors. These Class 442 (5-WES) units later transferred to the Brighton main line in 2008 on Gatwick Express services from Victoria, ran by the Southern franchise, before returning to South Western Railway in 2019.
The last slam door units ran in mainline operations in November 2005. New safety regulations prohibiting the use of trains with slam doors (unless equipped with secondary or central locking) were not introduced until the last examples could be withdrawn. Exceptionally, some slam door units were allowed to stay in service for another couple of years by special derogation on the Lymington Pier "heritage" branch before they retired permanently in 2010. Some Mark 1 units have been preserved by heritage railways ever since.
A lack of investment and focus on infrastructure maintenance and collision safeguards across institutions led to a marginal improvement in the net rate of fatal incidents compared to the same (non-British Rail) period before nationalisation, which reduced potential passengers' confidence.
The British railway industry failed to keep track with the safety regime of its aviation industry, which by the 2000s became its national precedent and contributed to a swift decline in fatalities.
As to lines closed during the time the region existed, some are preserved railways, mainly the Watercress Line, Bluebell Railway, Spa Valley Railway, Isle of Wight Steam Railway, Swanage Railway and Dartmoor Railway.
Thameslink is a 24-hour, 115-station main-line route in the British railway system, running from Bedford, Luton, St Albans City, Peterborough and Cambridge via central London to Sutton, Orpington, Sevenoaks, Rainham, Horsham and Brighton. Additional services to East Grinstead and Littlehampton operate at peak times. The network opened as a through service in 1988, with severe overcrowding by 1998, carrying more than 28,000 passengers in the morning peak. All the services are currently operated by Govia Thameslink Railway.
Gatwick Express is a high-frequency rail passenger service between London Victoria, Gatwick Airport, and Brighton in South East England. It is the brand name used by the Govia Thameslink Railway train operating company on the Gatwick Express route of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise. It provides a high frequency airport rail service from Victoria to Gatwick Airport. The service began in May 1984 with air-conditioned InterCity carriages operated by British Rail. When it was privatised in April 1996, National Express took over the franchise. In June 2008, Gatwick Express ceased to exist as a separate franchise, when it was merged into the Southern train operating company, although it continues to be maintained as a separate identity. In July 2015, Southern including the Gatwick Express service was merged into Govia Thameslink Railway.
Southern is the brand name used by the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) train operating company on the Southern routes of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise in England. It is a subsidiary of Govia, a joint venture between transport groups Go-Ahead and Keolis, and has operated the South Central rail franchise since August 2001 and the Gatwick Express service since June 2008. When was the franchise was subsumed into GTR, Southern was split from Gatwick Express and the two became separate brands, alongside the Thameslink and Great Northern brands.
The Southern Railway (SR), sometimes shortened to 'Southern', was a British railway company established in the 1923 Grouping. It linked London with the Channel ports, South West England, South coast resorts and Kent. The railway was formed by the amalgamation of several smaller railway companies, the largest of which were the London & South Western Railway (LSWR), the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) and the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SE&CR). The construction of what was to become the Southern Railway began in 1838 with the opening of the London and Southampton Railway, which was renamed the London & South Western Railway.
A train operating company (TOC) is a business operating passenger trains on the railway system of Great Britain under the collective National Rail brand. TOCs have existed since the privatisation of the network under the Railways Act 1993.
Network SouthEast (NSE) was one of the three passenger sectors of British Rail created in 1982. NSE mainly operated commuter rail trains within Greater London and inter-urban services in densely populated South East England, although the network went as far west as Exeter. Before 1986, the sector was originally known as London & South Eastern.
The British Rail Class 377 Electrostar is a British dual-voltage electric multiple unit train (EMU) built by Bombardier Transportation at its Derby Litchurch Lane Works, from 2001 to 2014. The Electrostar family is the most numerous type of EMU built in the post-privatisation period of Britain's railways.
The British Rail Class 442 (5WES) Wessex Electrics is a class of electric multiple-unit passenger trains introduced in 1988 by Network SouthEast on the South Western Main Line from London Waterloo to Weymouth to coincide with the electrification of the line from Bournemouth. Twenty-four five-car units were built by British Rail Engineering Limited's Derby Litchurch Lane Works.
The Brighton Main Line is a British railway line divided in the north into two sections running from London Victoria and London Bridge to Brighton. It is about 51 miles (81 km) long, and is electrified throughout. Nearly all passenger trains are provided by Govia Thameslink Railway which operates the Southern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink brands. A small section has Great Western Railway services, currently sole operator of the line from Gatwick Airport to Reading, Berkshire known as the North Downs Line. The many Sussex services to Central London use the line and generally its branches as do south London, East Surrey and Tonbridge, Kent services.
The Chatham main line is a railway line in England that links London Victoria and Dover Priory / Ramsgate, travelling via Medway.
Sevenoaks railway station is on the South Eastern Main Line in England, serving the town of Sevenoaks, Kent. It is 22 miles 9 chains (35.6 km) down the line from London Charing Cross and is situated between Dunton Green and Hildenborough stations. Trains calling at the station are operated by Southeastern and Thameslink.
Connex South Central was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by Connex that operated the Network SouthCentral franchise from 26 May 1996 until 25 August 2001.
An electric multiple unit (EMU) is an electric train capable of operating in multiple with other EMUs that does not have a separate locomotive, typically passenger trains with accommodation in every vehicle and a driving position at each end. The term can also be used to describe a train such as the Advanced Passenger Train that was a permanent formation with a non-driving power car. As of December 2010 two thirds of the passenger carriages in Britain are formed in EMUs.
Govia is a transport company based in the United Kingdom. It was formed in November 1996 as a joint venture between Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%) to bid for rail franchises during the privatisation of British Rail.
London & South Eastern Railway Limited, trading as Southeastern, is a British train operating company owned by Govia that operates passenger rail services in South East England. It is the key operator of commuter and regional services in South East London and Kent but also serves parts of East Sussex.
The Great Northern Route is the name given to suburban rail services run on the southern end of Britain's East Coast Main Line and its associated branches. Services operate to or from London King's Cross and Moorgate in London. Destinations include Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Peterborough, Cambridge and King's Lynn. Services run through parts of Greater London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.
The British Rail Class 387 is a type of electric multiple unit passenger train built by Bombardier Transportation, as part of the Electrostar family. A total of 107 units were built, with the first train entering service on Thameslink in December 2014. The trains are currently in service with Great Western Railway, Govia Thameslink Railway and c2c.
Stewarts Lane is a large railway-servicing facility in Battersea in London, England, founded by the London Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) in 1862, to serve London Victoria railway station. It is sited in the midst of a maze of railway lines between 'Factory Junction' and 'Stewarts Lane Junction', adjacent to the site of the former Longhedge Railway Works. Prior to 1962 it was one of the largest motive power depots in the UK. Following the end of steam traction in the early 1960s it was converted into a Traction Maintenance Depot which is currently operated by Govia Thameslink Railway.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is a train operating company that operates the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) rail franchise in England. Within the franchise, GTR runs the Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express airport services.
Although the railway network in Great Britain has some of the smallest loading gauges in the world, the vast bulk of it is still capable of operating full sized vehicles. However, British Rail, together with its predecessors and successors have, on occasion, been required to operate passenger trains to an even smaller loading gauge and have, as a consequence, obtained rolling stock identical to that of the "deep tube" lines of London Underground; these are lines built using the tunneling shield method, that were, by necessity, smaller than those lines built using the cut-and-cover method. In 1892, a Parliamentary Committee headed by James Stansfeld recommended that such lines be in tunnels with a minimum diameter of 11ft 6in. Two routes operated by British Rail required the use of such deep-tube rolling stock, the Waterloo & City Line in London, and the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.