Brighton Main Line

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Brighton Main Line
Principal stations (from north to south)
London Victoria London Bridge
Clapham Junction    
             East Croydon
  Coulsdon South
  Gatwick Airport
  Three Bridges
  Haywards Heath
  Burgess Hill
  Preston Park

The Brighton Main Line is the British railway line from London Victoria and London Bridge to Brighton. The route is approximately 50 miles (80 km) in length. It is operated by Southern and First Capital Connect and is electrified throughout. Several other operators Gatwick Express, South Eastern Trains and Virgin Cross Country also operate on certain parts of the route.

History of the line

There were no fewer than six original proposals to build a railway between London and Brighton: the London and Brighton Railway (L&BR) emerged with an Act of Parliament of 15 July 1837. The scheme was to build a line from a junction with the London and Croydon Railway (L&CR) (with its terminus at London Bridge) to Brighton, with two branches: one to Newhaven, the other to Shoreham-by-Sea.

Opening took place as follows:

12 May 1840: Brighton to Shoreham-by-Sea (all the materials for the line having arrived by sea.)
12 July 1841: Norwood Junction, London (L&CR) to Haywards Heath.
21 September 1841: the final section from Haywards Heath to Brighton.

The Newhaven section did not materialise until 1846, when the Brighton - Hastings line opened. Also in 1846 the L&CR and L&BR amalgamated; the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) came into being. In 1860 the line between London Victoria and Balham opened, and the Brighton Main Line was completed in 1862.

In the early days, the LB&SCR and the South Eastern Railway (SER) had been forced by an Act of Parliament to share the route southwards from London as far as Redhill. This caused a great deal of friction, since Redhill was an SER station, and quarrels broke out between the two companies to the extent that the LB&SCR built an avoiding line between Coulsdon North and Earlswood which became known as the Quarry Line, still used by fast trains avoiding Redhill. It was opened on 8 November 1899 (1 April 1900 for passenger traffic).


The LB&SCR began electrification of its lines on 1 December 1909 when its South London Line was equipped with high-tension single-phase system with overhead conductors; within three years many more of its suburban services were converted. After the 1923 grouping the main line as far as Coulsdon North came into use using overhead conductors, but the new Southern Railway had by now decided upon the third-rail system, as adopted by another of its constituents, the London and South Western Railway. In 1928/29 the entire network was converted to third rail operation, and subsequent conversion followed on that basis. The third rail system is electrified at 750V DC and underwent a recent power supply upgrade prior to the introduction of the new Electrostar stock operated by Southern

Dates of electrification were are follows:


There are now many more trains from Victoria to Brighton than from London Bridge: a reversal of the original services. The line is four-tracked, except along the Quarry Line, the section through the Balcombe Tunnel between Three Bridges and Haywards Heath, and from Haywards Heath to Preston Park which passes through Clayton Tunnel south of Hassocks.

The fastest services from Brighton to Victoria stop only at East Croydon and Clapham Junction, though some "express" services also call at Gatwick Airport. First Capital Connect services from Brighton to London Bridge using the Thameslink route continue across London to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and King's Cross, and then on to Luton and Bedford. (Southern Trains services to London Bridge do not continue north of the River Thames.)

Branching routes

From Victoria, the following other services use the Line, but branch off where shown:

Railway lines in South-East England:
Main lines:   Arun Valley Line   Ashford via Maidstone East Line   Ashford-Ramsgate via Canterbury Line   Brighton Main Line   Chatham Main Line   East Coastway   Hastings Line   Channel Tunnel Rail Link   Kent Coast Line   London–Ashford–Dover Line   North Downs Line   Portsmouth Direct Line   South Western Main Line   Thameslink   West Coastway   West of England Main Line
Commuter lines:   Alton Line   Ascot-Guildford Line   Bexleyheath Line   Caterham Line   Catford Loop   Chessington Branch   Dartford Loop   Eastleigh-Fareham Line   Eastleigh-Romsey Line   Greenwich Line   Hayes Line   Hounslow Loop   Mid-Kent Line   New Guildford Line   North Kent Line   Oxted Line   Sheerness Line   Slough-Windsor & Eton Line   South London Line   Staines-Windsor & Eton Line   Staines to Weybridge Line   Sutton Mole Valley Line   Tattenham Corner Line   Waterloo-Reading Line   West London Line
Rural lines:   Brockenhurst-Lymington Line   Henley Branch Line   Island Line   Marlow Branch Line   Marshlink Line   Medway Valley Line   Redhill-Tonbridge Line