diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 20, 2011

Seaside postcard: Newhaven
When spring arrives and the seaside beckons, you'd probably not choose to head to Newhaven. It's a ferry port for a start. Its beach is small and pebbly. And there's Brighton ten miles up the coast, which is much more of a draw. But there's enough going on in this East Sussex town to keep you entertained for, well, a few hours.


Newhaven Harbour: Newhaven's a long-established port astride the mouth of the River Ouse (well, a River Ouse, England has so many). The river used to meander to the sea round a shingle spit, but an artificial channel put a stop to that, hence the name New Haven. This was one of the first towns in England to get a lifeboat, and there's still an orange monster tied up on the quayside near the RNLI shop. The harbour's deep enough for cross Channel ferries to berth, but the majority of river traffic now comes from motorboats using the new upmarket marina. I was pleasantly surprised to see a small trawler by the quayside, with three fishermen aboard tweaking their nets in readiness for another catch. But the sea doesn't bring prosperity to the town quite like it used to. Freight traffic's down, unemployment's up, even the Parker Pen factory has closed down. There's a giant new waste incinerator nearly completed upstream, but that won't bring as many jobs as were lost over the last few decades. Newhaven needs to stay a working town to survive, so here's hoping current investment pays off.

Newhaven Marine: Newhaven has two stations - Newhaven Town and Newhaven Harbour. Everybody uses the former, because its closest to the swing bridge across to the main side of town. The Seaford train nips from one to the other in under a minute, so there's barely any need for the second station at all. But there used to be a third, less than another minute further on, called Newhaven Marine. Holidaymakers used to pour off trains from London onto its single platform to board the ferry to Dieppe. No more. These days there are only two ferries a day, one mid morning, one late evening, so there's not the demand. The main ferry terminal has shifted, closer to the main road and to Newhaven Town. And that's left Newhaven Marine as one of the strangest, most contrary stations in the country.

Newhaven Marine really ought to have closed down by now, but hasn't quite. The last passengers used the station in August 2006, at which point the platforms were deemed unsafe and sealed off. But it's damned awkward to close down a railway service, even one that's never used, because parliamentary rules throw up all sorts of impenetrable red tape. So trains still run from Newhaven Marine, even though nobody's allowed to get on board, which notionally keeps this tiny branch line open. There's only one train each weekday evening, the 8:15 to Lewes, and it only runs in one direction. You won't find it in the timetable, and it doesn't accept passengers. Yell through the fence as much as you like, the driver won't let you on. And this charade continues, and will continue to continue, for as long it's easier to run the train than hold a public consultation on the line's closure.

I arrived in town at Newhaven Harbour, one stop past the busy Newhaven Town. Only two of us got off the train, both seemingly more interested in local transport peculiarities than nipping over to France. From the footbridge there was a good view of the regular tracks taken veering off towards Seaford, and the ghost railway running straight ahead into oblivion. It's only a couple of minutes walk, via the nearby level crossing, to the abandoned Transmanche Ferries terminal. You'd have to be really heavily laden with luggage not to be able to manage this walk, not that anyone with luggage comes this way any more. Peer across the tracks and there's the mothballed platform, empty but for a couple of old signs (mmm, Network SouthEast) and the odd pigeon. The station canopy's seen better days, and it's the supposedly perilous state of this roof which has been used as an excuse to end passenger services.

Never fear, if you're really keen to make a journey from Newhaven Marine there's a sign outside suggesting that you call for a complimentary taxi. One problem, you have to be in possession of a ticket from Newhaven Marine, and nobody sells those. I would direct you to a Radio 4 documentary on the subject, in which the presenter actually manages to wheedle a cab ride out of Network Rail, but that's no longer accessible. It's ludicrous, but Newhaven Marine station remains on an administrative life support machine, and nobody quite has the nerve to turn it off.

Since I wrote this, Geoff and Vicki have been down to Newhaven Marine and encountered the daily ghost train. Their excellent video report is here.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream