London to Ashford to Dover Line

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London - Ashford- Dover Line
Principal stations

Charing Cross or Cannon Street
Waterloo East
London Bridge

Paddock Wood


  • (Channel Tunnel Rail Link) diverges

Folkestone West
Folkestone Central
Dover Priory

The London-Ashford-Dover Line is one of two long-distance routes serving the coast of Kent, England; the other being the Chatham Main Line, which runs along the north Kent coast to Ramsgate and Dover via Canterbury East.


Services on this line take the inland route via Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Ashford to reach Dover.

The Ashford via Maidstone East Line diverges from the Chatham Main Line at Swanley Junction and joins the "London to Ashford to Dover Line" at Ashford.

Trains on the routes are run by Southeastern.

Services start from Charing Cross or Cannon Street. Other trains run via the Ashford via Maidstone East Line).


The line was built by the South Eastern Railway (SER), who were in competition with the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR), hence the duplication of stations in Kent.

The original main line was given sanction by Act of Parliament in 1836, running from London Bridge via Croydon East and Redhill (the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway's Brighton Main Line), Tonbridge, and Ashford to Folkestone and Dover. This circuitous route was the result of insistence on the part of Parliament that only one southerly route out of the capital was necessary; forcing the SER to share the LB&SCR's Brighton Main Line. This completely ignored the fact that the main London - Dover road had, since ancient times, followed a much more direct route; and it ignored the fact that the other great railway building projects did take direct routes whenever feasible. A passenger to Dover had a 20-mile longer journey than by the coaching route!

The main line reached Ashford on December 1 1842; the outskirts of Folkestone by June 28 1843; and Dover by February 7 1844. Their locomotive works was built in 1845 moving from New Cross in London.

Due to competition with the LCDR (who had constructed the quicker Chatham Main Line and Ashford via Maidstone East Line (to Sevenoaks, Canterbury, Dover, Ramsgate, Ashford and Maidstone), the SER built a very expensive line via Sevenoaks and Orpington through the North Downs by means of summits and then long tunnels at both Knockholt and Sevenoaks. This "cut-off" line, 24 miles in length, reached Chislehurst on July 1 1865, but took three more years to reach Orpington and Sevenoaks (opening date March 2 1868) and Tonbridge (May 1 1868).

When the SER and LCDR merged in 1899 to form the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR) the stations and track layout at Ashford and Dover were rationalised.

The line was electrified (750v DC third rail) to Sevenoaks by Southern prior World War Two. Post war under the 1955 BR Modernisation plan, electrification was completed.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link run in parallel to the line from Ashford to where it diverges at Cheriton.

External link

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