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Fears for future of vital link between two train stations

By Kent and Sussex Courier  |  Posted: March 01, 2013

By Jane Bakowski takes a walk along a disused Tunbridge Wells railway line and finds, despite campaigners' best efforts, there seems little hope of it being reopened

  • ECHO: Signs of the old railway line linger on behind Madeira Park

  • END OF THE LINE: The old track is cut off by the coach park near the former West Station

  • OPEN: The old railway bridge over Upper Cumberland Walk has disappeared

  • NEGLECTED: Grove Tunnel, through which 30 trains a day once carried passengers between the two stations

  • HIDDEN: Beneath the traffic in Warwick Park, the old railway bridge is a silent reminder of past days.

  • BLOCKED: The old rail track to the rear of Madeira Park is cut off.

  • GARDEN GRAB: Nearby gardens have spread across the old railway line

Comments (5)

IT WAS once the busiest single-track section of railway line in the country but, almost three decades after its closure, the short route which once linked Tunbridge Wells's two stations is a ghostly presence: one minute you see it, the next it's gone and you wonder if it was just a figment of your imagination.

At its peak, the spur built to provide a gateway into Sussex and the south coast handled 30 trains a day, carrying passengers smoothly across town from the main station in Mount Pleasant to West Station just beyond The Pantiles. From there, travellers could pick up the main Brighton line to go on down to the coast or up to Victoria.

British Railways finally called time on West Station in 1985, however, after years of declining services, the cross-town track has sunk into the doldrums. It's been ripped up and trampled on, planted over and swamped by season after season of leaves and mud, obscured by fallen trees and used as a general dumping ground.

Now, however, after 30 years, the five-acre stretch of former British Railways land is in the news again. With confirmation from Railway Paths, the charity which bought it for £1 in 2001, that it is on the market, campaigners pressing for the re-opening of the Brighton line are alarmed at the threat to the vital link between the two stations. If the service is ever to be resumed, they say, this stretch of line cannot disappear.

The spur runs from Grove Junction, the point just south of Tunbridge Wells station where it branches away from the main Hastings line to curve down past the big old houses in Madeira Park and Upper Cumberland Walk before winding under Warwick Park and through Grove Tunnel, the 183-yard route carved out beneath Grove Hill, to emerge directly to the east of the station.

Overgrown trees make it difficult to spot the junction itself but, from the site of the bridge, now disappeared, which once carried it over Great Cumberland Walk, the imprint of the old track beyond the gardens of Madeira Park is still clear.

Swings and rusting wheelbarrows show how local householders have made use of space at the bottom of their gardens over the years, but a newly-erected fence cutting right across the track to enclose a wide parcel of land signals that change is under way – even though the sale of the land has not yet been confirmed.

In the other direction, in a kind of garden-grabbing in reverse, encroaching gardens have gobbled up the old track completely.

Swinging west beneath a bridge spanning Warwick Park, the track disappears into Grove Tunnel before finally stopping, rather ignominiously, at the tunnel opening beside a coach park next to Sainsbury's supermarket.

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5 comments

  • LGWcommuter  |  March 12 2013, 10:23PM

    No apology from the author for the awful prose and the appalling headline.

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  • janebakowski  |  March 12 2013, 9:55PM

    The news story on this with all the facts and figures had to be held back while we await confirmation that this land has been sold. This feature was simply to tell people where the line is and to report on how it looks today. I have no personal view on this.

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  • LGWcommuter  |  March 08 2013, 10:21PM

    It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!It is a railway station!!!!!!

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  • djwhisky  |  March 05 2013, 8:24PM

    Yeah the article all in all is very poorly written. There are two separate campaigns to re-open the railway - it's all linked in with the reopening of the Uckfield to Lewes stretch of railway too - have a look at BML2 (http://tinyurl.com/823jbw3) for the more grandiose plan and http://tinyurl.com/a46b5x3

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  • Tom_Perfect  |  March 04 2013, 10:54AM

    Just who are these campaigners? Is there a genuine need to reopen the railway line after some 28 years, or is this misplace nostalgia? What is the guide price for the land? Why is Railway Paths selling the track in the first place? A poorly researched article.

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