Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990. As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.
The first railway line to open at Brighton was not in fact the London main line, but rather the branch to Shoreham. It was first proposed in 1825 to provide good communication with the harbour, but it was the 1837 London and Brighton Railway Act which authorised branches to both Shoreham and Newhaven. Work on the western branch started in July 1838 under engineer John Rastrick, and the line opened at 5 p.m. on 11 May 1840, some sixteen months before the main line; an experimental service had actually been provided from 20 April 1840. Seven trains ran each way daily, taking 12 minutes, and intermediate stops were made at Hove (Holland Road), Portslade, Southwick, and Kingston-by-Sea. On the opening day a man fell to his death from a luggage van which had been fitted for passenger use.
The Shoreham line was subsequently extended westwards by the Brighton and Chichester Railway Company to Worthing on 24 November 1845; to Lyminster on 16 March 1846; to Chichester on 8 June 1846; and to Havant (and therefore Portsmouth) on 15 July 1847. Trains to Littlehampton first ran on 17 August 1863, and to Bognor Regis on 1 June 1864. The line was electrified to West Worthing at the same time as the main line from 1 January 1933, and to Havant and Portsmouth in 1938. Since 1972 it has been known as the West Coastway. Trains to the West Country were originally introduced in the 1910s and ’20s, and a service to Bristol was re-established from 1981; a through service to Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole was introduced in 1990.
Locally, the major engineering features of the line are the deep cutting outside Brighton Station, and the Hove Tunnel, 231 yards long below Dyke Road, which bears the date 1839 on its eastern portal. The short but important link between Hove and the London main line, the Cliftonville spur, was opened on 1 July 1879 from Preston Park to Cliftonville Station (now Hove). It is 1 mile 34 chains long, and includes the 536-yard Cliftonville Tunnel under Dyke Road.
Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.