London, Tilbury and Southend Railway

The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, 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,,,, Tilbury, Southend and.
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 and. 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.
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 main line runs from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness via Basildon over a distance of. A loop line between Barking and provides an alternative route via Grays and Tilbury; there is a short branch line connecting the two via. The line has a maximum speed limit of, although the and electric trains which run on it are capable of speeds of and respectively.
The line forms part of Network Rail's strategic route 6. It is classified as a London and South East commuter line. Passenger services form the Essex Thameside franchise that is currently operated by train operating company c2c.


Initial construction

The construction of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway line was authorised by Parliament on 17 June 1852. The first section, built by Peto and Grissell, was opened between Junction on the Eastern Counties Railway line and Tilbury, via and on 13 April 1854. Services initially ran from Fenchurch Street and Bishopsgate stations over existing lines to and Forest Gate Junction. Further extensions opened in late 1854 to Horndon, to Leigh-on-Sea on 1 July 1855 and finally to Southend on 1 March 1856.
In 1858 a more direct route from Barking to London was constructed through Bromley, and, 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 in 1884. A more direct route from to via was built between 1885 and 1888, completing the current main route. A single-track branch was constructed between and Grays via Upminster in 1892–93.

Route development

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. 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. 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. The electrified tracks were extended to Barking and that section opened on 1 April 1908. Delayed by World War I, the electric tracks were eventually extended to Upminster and District line services started to and from there on 12 September 1932.
The London Plan Working Party Report of 1949 envisaged as its Route G the LTSR electrified and diverted away from Fenchurch Street to and onward through the Waterloo & City line tunnels to Waterloo and its suburban lines. 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 and direct passenger services from Bromley, Plaistow,, East Ham,, and 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. Semaphore signals were replaced with 3- and 4-aspect searchlight signals.
In 1972 the British Railways Board 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. 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. The proposal was abandoned and the BRB removed the spur line proposal from the 1974 Bill.
In 1974 a station was opened to serve the new town of and in 1995 a station was built at to serve the new community there as well as Lakeside Shopping Centre. Platforms were re-established and opened at in 1999 to provide interchange with the extended Jubilee line.

Former stations

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


Electrification of the line and the connecting branches, under various system of traction current, took place in stages as follows:
November 1949
November 1960
November 1961
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. The lease expired in 1875, leaving the LTSR to take over operation itself. The Midland Railway and LTSR jointly constructed the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway, which enabled through-running of trains between and the Tilbury docks from 1894 and Southend from 1895. 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. Upon company grouping in 1923, the line became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. 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. The line was electrified in the late 1950s. 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". On privatisation in 1996, ownership passed to Railtrack and Prism Rail took over operations of the franchise, marketing the route as LTS Rail. 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

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, Tilbury and Shoeburyness. Shoeburyness replaced an engine shed at Southend Central when the line was extended in early 1884.
After electrification in 1962 most services were operated by British Railways Class 302 electric multiple units, which were withdrawn in 1998, leaving s, s and some loaned s 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.


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 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, 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 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 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.


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. Trains diverted at Barking, having passed Stratford, can also rejoin the LTSR before and then continue to. This latter route is not currently used in the standard timetable, however at weekends there are two trains per hour to and from 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. Currently, this is only used during weekends, when some Basildon services are diverted into Liverpool Street.

Proposed developments

2007 proposals

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. 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.

London Gateway link

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 ten to 15 years.


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

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.
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.