|Crouch Valley line|
Wickford is the western terminus of the line
East of England
|Rolling stock||Class 321|
|Line length||16 miles 40 chains (26.6 km)|
|Number of tracks||1|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV 50 Hz AC OHLE|
|Operating speed||60 mph maximum|
The Crouch Valley line (sometimes referred to as the Southminster branch line) is a branch line off the Shenfield–Southend line in Essex, in the east of England. It links Wickford in the west to Southminster in the east. The vast majority of services connect to or from the Great Eastern Main Line at Shenfield, and its London terminus at Liverpool Street.
The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.05, and is classified as a London and South East commuter line. The stations and passenger services on the line are currently operated by Greater Anglia.
The route, which is 16 miles 40 chains (26.6 km) in length, was opened to goods traffic on 1 June 1889 and to passengers on 1 July 1889, by the Great Eastern Railway (GER). It was electrified at 25 kV AC overhead in 1986.
The number of trains on the Crouch Valley line is restricted to two trains per hour (one in each direction) at weekends and two every 40 minutes on weekdays, with some additional services during peak times. This is due to the limited capacity available after the line was reduced to a single track in the 1960s as part of the Beeching cuts. It has also been used to take waste and fuel rods from Bradwell nuclear power station to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility in Cumbria.
The line diverges from the Shenfield–Southend line at Wickford. It is single track throughout, except for one passing loop at North Fambridge (the midpoint of the line) to allow trains travelling in opposite directions to pass one another.
Only Wickford and South Woodham Ferrers have platforms long enough to accommodate 12-coach trains, while each of the other stations on the line can accommodate eight coaches, though services on the line are typically only formed of four carriages due to the short terminus platforms at Wickford being able to only accommodate one four car unit.
Trains are formed by Class 321 units. Services are currently operated by Greater Anglia. The company replaced the previous operator, National Express East Anglia, in 2012. First Great Eastern previously operated the line until 2004, when all the operators in East Anglia were merged into one new franchise.
There are limited ticket facilities along the route so an onboard ticket inspector is often provided on the train to assist passengers.