During the long hot summer of 1976 I arrived at Newhaven Marine on a boat train from London Victoria on my first teenage visit to Paris, boarding a Sealink ferry to Dieppe, where a connecting train whisked me off to Gare St. Lazare in the French capital.
Paying a return visit to Newhaven 41 years later it is sad to see that Newhaven Marine station appears to have just been demolished, albeit more than a decade after it saw its last passengers. It effectively closed in 2006, due to safety concerns, and would be passengers were re-directed to the nearby Harbour station.
The Harbour station itself has something of an abandoned air about it – possibly due to re-siting of the ferry terminal – but in a uniquely British feature of our railway system a train still serves the now fenced off station of Newhaven Marine, though not for the benefit of any nostalgic cross-channel traveller.
As I witnessed on 24 May 2017, at 19.52 every weekday evening (strikes permitting), the 19.26 Southern Railway service from Brighton disgorges its final passengers at Newhaven Harbour station. It then shunts past signal NH5, which shows a distant amber aspect, with the junction “feather” lights lit and inches its way into Newhaven Marine station.
A little over 15 minutes later this “ghost train” pulls out of Marine station past the station’s starting signal NH35 – the last semaphore signal anywhere in this area – and returns empty stock to Brighton.
It is a particularly British approach to railways that pretends Newhaven Marine station is not really closed. After more than a decade of pretence, though, isn’t it time that common sense prevailed and the railway authorities owned up and admitted, to paraphrase the famous Monty Python parrot sketch, that this is not a station, it is a dead station?