The glorious North Downs: a Class 166 descends Gomshall bank at Abinger Hammer with a Gatwick to Reading service on 21 January 2011. Ken Brunt


Conversation at the Golden Whistles turned to a favourite Home Counties byway of mine, the Gatwick to Reading route that threads the picturesque North Downs. Living where I do in the south east corner of the country, the line represents a handy outlet to the West.

The North Downs route represents a fabulous opportunity. Currently there are two short trains per hour (one semi-fast, one stopper – of two to three cars per train) on a 70mph railway. But this route connects economically important areas: the prosperous Thames Valley with London’s second airport. An upgrade to 90mph infrastructure and a doubling of service frequency (two stopping trains an hour between Reading and Redhill, with a couple of Reading – Guildford – Gatwick fasts each hour) would likely wash its face financially.

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