Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Southern - Hayes review 1

Hayes train at London Bridge station

6/11/07  Lewisham to Hayes

Cost of ticket £18.00 (London area travel card)

Dept Lewisham: 15.07   Arrive Hayes: 15.30

Journey time: 23  mins

Distance: 8 miles  Weather:  cloudy

Train type: Class 376 4-car EMU (double track all the way)

Railway company: South Eastern

Frequency of trains - one every 15 minutes

The train I get on has started from Cannon Street, though trains also start from Charing Cross going to Hayes. So it has four trains an hour throughout the day. Lewisham station is split into two parts, with two platforms for Dartford area trains and two platforms for the Hayes branch and Hither Green area services. It's a busy suburban station, plus there are several fright trains that pass through the station. We leave from platform 2, which is high above the streets below. We go slowly at first in a sharp right hand curve, with the Hither Green line going off on our left. We pass under the main Kent Coast line and then are joined by a spur off this line on the right, before we stop at Ladywell station. It has two platforms and is a well-kept station, though grills are over the windows of the station buildings. We move away and go past Lewisham University Hospital on our right and travel just a short distance before we arrive at Catford Bridge station. It has a yellow brick station building and through a gap you can see Catford station on the right, which is on the Bromley South to Nunhead line. As we leave, you can see the overgrown remains of Catford Dog Track on the right, whilst there are plenty of terraced houses on the left. The Bromley line passes over us as we go south and see the Crystal Palace radio masts in the distance. We then slow for Lower Sydenham station, which has been rebuilt with the yellow bricks, with blue railway signs. It doesn't have much character and this is worsened by the graffiti, which covers the footbridge. There is more parkland on the right, but we don't go far before we stop at New Beckenham station. It has a large canopy over the platforms with Victorian buttresses adding to the character of this station. There is a space between the two platforms for a third track, but this has long gone. There is a single line, which comes in from the left from the Bromley South to Brixton line, which we soon pass under. The houses here are now spaced out more and we start to curve to the right as we come to stop at Clock House station. It is another yellow brick walled station, but has no buildings as such. There is barbed wire on the tops of the walls and a yellow iron gate at the station exit. We pass more parkland on the right and then there are houses on both sides as we come to a stop at Elmer's End station. This is now one of the terminals for the Croydon tram link and there's a tram waiting in the bay at platform 1, but it pulls away before our train comes to a stop! The line originally went straight on to Addiscombe here, but that is now a single tramline.  The station still has its Victorian canopy, as well as a modern bus shelter. Our track now turns sharp right as we go past allotments and playing fields quite slowly before speeding up once more. We start to climb uphill and go onto an embankment overlooking schools and houses as we move away from London. We stop at Eden Park, which is high above the shops below. It has white painted wooden buildings for its station, with blue edgings for the Southeastern livery. The houses we pass are now either detached or semi-detached and then we go into a cutting, before reaching West Wickham station. There is a builder's merchants yard next to the station, which is a modern red brick building, though the graffiti spoils it. We move into another cutting, before seeing a cricket ground and more detached houses as we arrive at Hayes station. It has two platforms with the track either side of the platforms, covered by a canopy at the entrance end. Another train is waiting on platform 1 as we come into platform 2.

Summary: A busy suburban line with a frequent service throughout the day, which should be safe for many years to come.  MC