Network SouthEast

Network SouthEast
Network SouthEast
Network southeast logo.svg
465034 at Waterloo East.JPG
Franchise(s): Not subject to franchising
Main region(s): London
Other region(s): South East
Fleet size: Carriages: 6700 (1986)
Stations called at: 930 (1986)
Parent company: British Rail
Two units; one in NSE livery, the other in Jaffa Cake livery
A train in modified NSE livery with rounded corners
Transitional scene from BR Blue (the train) to NSE (the signage, train sticker) at Farnborough North railway station

Network SouthEast (NSE) was one of three passenger sectors of British Rail created in 1982. NSE principally operated commuter trains in the London area and inter-urban services in densely populated South East England, although the network reached as far west as Exeter. Before 1986, the sector was known as London & South Eastern.

In the privatisation of British Rail on 1 April 1994 it was gradually broken into a number of franchises.



Before the sectorisation of BR in 1982 the system was split into regions: those operating around London were London Midland Region (Marylebone, Euston, St Pancras and Broad Street), Southern Region (Waterloo, Victoria, Charing Cross, Holborn Viaduct, Cannon Street and London Bridge), Western Region (Paddington) and Eastern Region (King's Cross, Moorgate, Broad Street, Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street). It has been claimed that the move to sectorization of the main BR businesses - commuter services in the south-east of England, long distance intercity services, local services in the UK regions, parcels and freight - was due to the desire of the Conservative government of the time to reduce the level of public subsidy for the railways.[1]

Upon sectorisation, the London & South Eastern sector took over passenger services in the South-East of England.[2] The livery of this sector was nicknamed Jaffa Cake. The livery was composed of chocolate brown, orange and grey colours.

In 1986, under new chairman Chris Green, L&SE was relaunched as Network SouthEast, along with a new red, white and blue livery.[2][3]

On privatisation, NSE was split into various franchises and the Waterloo & City Line sold to London Underground for a nominal sum of one pound.

The last passenger train still in NSE livery was lost on 15 September 2007, when a Class 465, 465193, the last still in NSE colours, was sent to Stewarts Lane TMD by Southeastern for revinyling into Southeastern livery.[4] However, there is still a departmental bubble car, used for route learning, in original NSE livery operating on the Chiltern Lines.

Beginning in 1983, BR’s operating regions were replaced with several business sectors: InterCity for principal passenger trains, Network SouthEast (NSE) for London commuter trains, Provincial for other local trains (including commuter rail outside London), Railfreight, and Parcels. BR’s regions were retained for infrastructure management purposes. The aim was to introduce greater budgetary efficiency and managerial accountability through sectorisation, rather than privatizing BR outright. Although BR owned all five sectors, each sector was given primary responsibility for various assets (rolling stock, tracks, stations), and control resided with the primary user. Other sectors could negotiate access rights and rent facilities, using their own resources.

Sectorisation brought big changes to London with the creation of Network SouthEast. In contrast to BR Provincial, which was intended to operate interregional and other subsidised services, NSE was expected to cover most of its operating costs from revenues. Not all London commuter traffic was profitable, but NSE charged fees to other BR sectors using its tracks, and used more profitable commuter and express flows to cross-subsidize branch line operations. As before, the central government remained the source of capital funding for Network SouthEast.

Although NSE did not own or maintain infrastructure, it exercised control over almost all carrier core functions. NSE set its own goals and service standards in consultation with BR, and created its own management structure and oversight. BR allowed NSE to decide about scheduling, marketing, infrastructure enhancements, and rolling stock specifications on NSE-assigned lines and services. NSE owned its equipment, which it painted in its own colors, as other sectors (and PTEs in the other metropolitan areas) were doing. NSE was able to exert much greater control and accountability over both its operating budget and service quality than BR could under its Regions. Relations were generally good between NSE and other sectors, although operating pressures sometimes forced staff to use equipment and assets belonging to other sectors to meet immediate needs.

Network Railcard

Although NSE no longer exists, the grouping of services that it defined before privatisation remain grouped by the Network Railcard,[5] which can be bought for £28 and which offers a 34% discount for adults and 60% discount for accompanying children after 10:00 on weekdays and all day at weekends (subject to a minimum weekday fare of £13).


NSE was broken down into various sub-divisions.

Subdivision Main Route(s) Route Description
Chiltern Chiltern Main Line, London to Aylesbury Line London Marylebone-Aylesbury/Banbury
Great Eastern Great Eastern Main Line London Liverpool Street-Ipswich/Harwich/Clacton-on-Sea/Walton-on-the-Naze/Southend Victoria
Great Northern East Coast Main Line, Hitchin-Cambridge Line London King's Cross-Peterborough/Cambridge (and subsequently London King's Cross-Cambridge-King's Lynn)
Island Line Island Line Ryde-Shanklin
Kent Link North Kent Line, Bexleyheath Line, Dartford Loop Line, Mid-Kent Line, Catford Loop Line, Hayes Line London Victoria/Charing Cross-Dartford/Gravesend/Gillingham/Orpington/Sevenoaks/Hayes
Kent Coast Chatham Main Line, Hastings Line, Sheerness Line London Victoria/Charing Cross-Margate/Dover/Folkestone/Ashford/Tunbridge Wells/Hastings (and subsequently North Downs services as far as Redhill/Three Bridges)
London, Tilbury and Southend LTS Line London Fenchurch Street - Tilbury - Southend Central - Shoeburyness
North Downs North Downs Line Reading-Guildford-Reigate-Gatwick Airport-Tonbridge
Northampton Line/North London Lines West Coast Main Line, Marston Vale Line, North London Line London Euston/Broad Street-Watford-Milton Keynes-Northampton-Birmingham, Bedford-Bletchley
Solent and Wessex Portsmouth Direct Line, South Western Main Line London Waterloo-Guildford-Portsmouth, London Waterloo-Basingstoke-Southampton-Bournemouth-Weymouth
South London Line South London Lines, Oxted Line, Sutton & Mole Valley Lines London Victoria & London Bridge to Croydon

London Victoria-East Grinstead/Uckfield/Sutton/Epsom Downs/Dorking/Horsham

South Western Line Alton Line, Waterloo-Reading Line London Waterloo-Alton/Reading/Windsor/Guildford
Sussex Coast Brighton Main Line, Arun Valley Line, East Coastway Line, West Coastway Line London Victoria/London Bridge-Gatwick Airport-Brighton/Eastbourne/Littlehampton, Brighton-Hastings, Brighton-Portsmouth-Southampton
Thames Great Western Main Line, Cotswold Line Windsor branch London Paddington-Slough- (-Windsor-) Reading-Oxford-Worcester/Stratford
Thameslink Thameslink Bedford-Luton-London-Gatwick Airport-Brighton
Waterloo & City Waterloo & City Line Waterloo-Bank
West Anglia Fen Line, Lea Valley Line London Liverpool Street-Harlow-Cambridge-King's Lynn (express services to Cambridge, and almost all services to King's Lynn, were subsequently transferred to the Great Northern route from London King's Cross); London Liverpool Street-Stansted Airport
West of England West of England Main Line London Waterloo-Basingstoke-Salisbury-Exeter


Soon after conception, Network SouthEast started to modernise parts of the network, which were run down after years of under investment. The most extreme example was the Chiltern Lines.

Chiltern Lines

The Chiltern Line ran on two railway lines (Chiltern Main Line and London to Aylesbury Line) from London Marylebone to Aylesbury and Banbury. These lines were former GWR and GCR intercity lines to Wolverhampton and Nottingham respectively. After the Beeching Axe in the 1960s, these lines became seriously run down with a lack of investment and a reduction of services.

By the late 1980s, the 25 year old Class 115s needed replacement; the lines had low speed limits and were still controlled by semaphore signalling from the early 1900s; stations were empty and needed more than a lick of paint; and Marylebone only served infrequent local trains from High Wycombe and Aylesbury. The lines were the best place to reminisce about the glory days of steam as there were frequent steam railtour services. It was more of a heritage railway than a commuter railway.

Marylebone still with the red NSE livery for stations, around 20 years later in 2007. Marylebone was one of the stations given a facelift in the late 1980s.

NSE realised that something needed to be done to these lines quickly. Numerous plans for the lines were proposed. One serious plan was to close the line between Marylebone and South Ruislip/Harrow-on-the-Hill, meaning that Marylebone would close and be converted into a coach station. Metropolitan Line trains would be extended to Aylesbury and BR services from Aylesbury will be routed to London Paddington via High Wycombe. Also the line north of Princes Risborough would close. However, this did not happen due to the fact that London Baker Street and Paddington would not be able to cope with the extra trains and passengers.

What did happen was total route modernisation. This was an ambitious plan to bring the lines into the modern era of rail travel. Class 115s were replaced by new state of the art Class 165s. Semaphore signals were replaced by standard colour light signals and ATP was fitted on the line and trains. Speed limits were increased to 75 mph (only 75 due to running on London Underground track between Harrow and Amersham), all remaining fast loops at stations were removed and the line between Bicester North and Aynho Junction was singled. Stations were refurbished and even reconstructed (£10 million spent on stations alone), and signal boxes and the freight depots/sidings were demolished. Regular services to Banbury, and a few specials to Birmingham were introduced and a new maintenance depot was built at Aylesbury. This was a massive undertaking and work began in 1988 and by 1992, the route had been completely modernised, demand for the service had grown considerably and the route had become profitable.

Since modernisation the route has seen further improvements (see Chiltern Main Line).

Electrification was considered but was deemed to be too expensive as the Thames Line sector would then have to be electrified as well. Another reason electrification did not take place was that some part of the line ran on underground lines, which were electrified as 4-rail 660 V DC, while British Rail preferred 25 kV AC overhead traction for lines north of London.

Success of the modernisation implemented by NSE has made it possible for the Chiltern Main Line to compete with the West Coast Main Line and there are now plans to increase speeds and quadruple sections of the line,[6] returning the line back to the state it was before the Beeching Axe.

New trains

The later style of the Network SouthEast livery

Network South East started a programme of replacing old rolling stock up to privatisation.

Note: The British Rail Class 168 were also planned by Network SouthEast for the Chiltern line for a planned service to Birmingham but privatisation intervened. However, new private operators Chiltern Railways ordered 5 Class 168/0 units based on the NSE designs in 1996 for their service to Birmingham Snow Hill.


After privatisation, NSE was divided up into several franchises:

Original franchise Route(s) Currently
LTS Rail London, Tilbury and Southend Rebranded c2c
Chiltern Railways (management) Chiltern Unchanged
Great Eastern Railway Great Eastern Rebranded as First Great Eastern, then merged into larger franchise operated by National Express East Anglia
Thames Trains North Downs
Thames section (Gatwick/Redhill - Dorking/Guildford/Reading)
Merged into larger franchise operated by First Great Western
Island Line Island Line Operated by Stagecoach South Western Trains, but is still called Island Line
North London Railways Northampton Line
North London Line
Rebranded as Silverlink, later split up into two franchises operated by London Midland (Northampton) and London Overground (N.London)
South Eastern Kent Coast, Kent Link, North Downs (Tonbridge- Redhill section) Rebranded by original franchisee Connex as Connex South Eastern, then passed to South Eastern Trains, then to Southeastern
Network SouthCentral South London Line
Sussex Coast
Rebranded by original franchisee Connex as Connex South Central, then passed to Southern
Thameslink Thameslink Merged into larger franchise operated by First Capital Connect
WAGN Great Northern
West Anglia
Split with GN merged into First Capital Connect and WA merged into National Express East Anglia
South West Trains Solent & Wessex
South Western Line
West of England Line
Operated by Stagecoach South Western Trains, but is still called South West Trains



  1. ^ Mark Lawrence: Network SouthEast - From Sectorization to Privatisation. Sparkford, Oxford Publishing Co. 1994
  2. ^ a b Thomas, David St John; Whitehouse, Patrick (1990). BR in the Eighties. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-9854-7. 
  3. ^ "Network SouthEast". Jane’s Railway Year 6: 4–11. 
  4. ^ Rail Magazine 575
  5. ^ "Network Railcard". Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  6. ^ "Network Rail route plan for Chilterns Nov 2007". 

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